Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's THIRSTday!

Thank you to David Etkin for starting a meme on his blog, {Eat the Book}. Today is Thursday THIRSTday: A beverage and a book.

My THIRSTday post each week is going to have a twist. One of my best friends, Karan Witham-Walsh, is an incredibly talented artist and makes pottery in her very own studio. She also teaches ceramics at a local high school. We decided to pair our passions: books and pottery! My beverage will be featured in her amazing designs. Check out the beautiful mug on her Etsy site! This book is quite sad and strange and beautiful all at the same time. We chose her Sgraffito mug to feature with the book because of its dramatic black and cream colors.  This is from my favorite collection of hers.  I have several pieces of it.  Here is the direct link: Sgraffito Black n White .  She sells lots of beautiful, durable, amazing pottery there, so you can order the mug, or anything else you find and love, for yourself!! Enjoy your coffee!

 Come back Monday to see my review of this incredible story!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.

This week's nonfiction included:
Becoming Babe Ruth
Another book I read and really enjoyed that was illustrated by Matt Tavares was Helen's Big World.  It won a Kiddo Book Award.

I learned a lot about Babe Ruth in this biography. I thought it was interesting that he was a trouble maker and had to be sent to a strict school for boys to straighten him out. It was so strict the students there were called inmates! While he was there, though, he discovered baseball, and that changed his life forever. It just goes to show that if kids find their passion, they will excel. I loved that Ruth had the opportunity to give back to the school that made such a difference in his life.  I love Tavares's illustrations.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

I knew nothing about Horace Pippin, so I thought his story was fascinating. Melissa Sweet, as usual, makes the biography come alive with creative and whimsical illustrations. Pippin is the personification of passion and determination. I loved the real photograph of him at the end.

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus

I really enjoyed this story about Winston Churchill and his dog, Rufus. The story is told in limited third person point of view, focusing on Rufus, who is Chuchill's loyal companion. We are taken on a journey through war, Winston's relationship with his wife, and leading his beloved United Kingdom. I love reading about Churchill, and kids will have a wonderful and unique introduction to this larger than life historical figure in an endearing way - through Rufus. Great Churchill quotes throughout the book, also. Good notes about Churchill's dogs and timeline in the back.
What nonfiction did YOU read this week?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Birthdays!

I'm excited about some book birthdays of books that are on my Goodreads to-read list!

Forest Has a Song: Poems

Period 8

Going Vintage

I'm halfway through Going Vintage, and I love it!

The Burgess Boys

Have you read them yet? 

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Ahhhh...spring break! Reading Heaven! These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

Here are the books I read this week:
Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat
 character-traits, great-read-aloud, humor, hyperbole, onomatopeoia, picture book

So cute and funny! Perfect bedtime book for toddlers and preschoolers, but it still made my 4th graders laugh! Kel is a daredevil! Just watch him eat broccoli, go potty, put his clothes on, take a bath, and go to bed without checking for monsters - no small feats! I got to go to a talk and signing by Michael Buckley.  He's hilarious and connected with the kids there.  Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S. series are also really popular with my students.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

2013 book, action/adventure, technology, fractured fairy tale, series, strong girl character

This series is so clever! This second book begins with Cinder breaking out of jail and accidentally landing in Thorne's jail cell. The two of them break out together. We also get introduced to the heroine, Scarlet, and I love how the story weaves Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne, and Cinder together. There's lots of great action in this one with a great set up for the next in the series. I hope boys aren't turned off by the covers or the idea that they're based off fairy tales because they would love these books!

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir

This memoir reminded me a lot of The Glass Castle. Barbara was born into a family of an alcoholic and abusive father, stoic and poetic mother, and lots of kids. They were impoverished in the South, and Barbara lived with a face that she likened to a mummy - twisted with malnutrition and tooth decay. It amazes me that any of them survived, but survived they did, and luckily, Barbara knows how to tell a story! Our book club enjoyed talking with amazement and sometimes horror about what this family lived through. She has a follow-up memoir, Fierce, which one of our book club members read and like.  She said it filled in some of the gaps of the first one.

The Lions of Little Rock

Re-read. First time through I listened to it. This time through I read it with a small group who read it during a civil rights unit. I liked it even better this time! My students loved it! This is such a well-told story about two girls living through a tumultuous time in Little Rock, AR, in 1958, and the complicated friendship they forge. The narrator of the audio version is very good. Marlee, the main character, is called "The Mute" by a few bullies in her town because she's shy to the point of never talking. Liz, her new friend, on the other hand, can't seem to stop saying whatever is on her mind. The two try to help each other with these character challenges, but there is way more to the story. It is a year after the Little Rock Nine, and schools have been closed because of the integration controversy. Marlee and Liz unintentionally end up right in the middle of the storm. I think Levine does a great job facing race issues head on but being sensitive to intermediate readers. The "n" word is used, however, so be be aware if you use it as a read aloud or hand it to kids. This book can be used for all kinds of literary elements - character development and motivation, importance of setting, theme, and symbolism (the lions at the local zoo are central symbols in the story).  I have a student that liked it so much, she checked out The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, Levine's first middle grade novel.  I'm curious to hear what she says about it!


bullying, character development, gifted characters, technology, humor, theme, intermediate kids' book

 I borrowed this book from a student who had liked it, and since I teach gifted kids, I wanted to read it.  I also read some criticism about it on a gifted education website, so I was curious about that.  I thought the premise of the story was funny - a trouble-maker and middle-schooler of average intelligence, Donovan, pulls a prank that gets out of control, and the superintendent, who prides himself with a well-run district, wants him gone.  However, Donovan's name gets accidentally picked up as someone whose scores send him to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, the school for gifted kids.  He knows it's a mistake, obviously, but his parents are so happy about it, and it's the perfect place to hide out until his mishap has blown over.  What he doesn't expect is that he'll excel in some unexpected areas, especially robotics, and he'll learn to appreciate the kids who go there when he thought it was just Nerdville.  There are some major stereotypes in this book, but I still liked it and think it's good not to take things too seriously.  A redeeming value of the story is that Korman shows us that kids are kids, no matter what their iQ is - they want to be accepted, feel a part of something, and want adults to believe in them.  Gordon Korman just knows middle school kids and write good books for them!

I, Too, Am America

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

2012 book, poetry, civil rights, symbolism, picture book, award winner

I'm a big fan of Bryan Collier, and I love his illustrator's notes. He puts so much symbolism and meaning into his illustrations. He also explains what Hughes's poem means to him. This would be a great introduction to Langston Hughes.

Flora and the Flamingo

I LOVED this charming, sweet, wordless book. I smiled all the way through it. It just made me happy! I love the flaps you have to lift up to reveal the pictures, love the little girl, love the flamingo, love everything about it!! I think it's a Caldecott contender for 2014!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

 I enjoyed this book. The set up is great - the setting is in San Francisco in a skinny bookstore with mysterious patrons. The musty, fantastical bookstore is juxtaposed against an ultra-modern technology era in which Google savants and web-designers are teeming with creative and futuristic ideas. The main character, Clay, is a web-designer who lost his job in the recession and takes a shift as a clerk at the Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore. He knows something is unusual and tries to figure out what is going on. He eventually catches on that there is an unbreakable code somewhere in the books, and there may be a secret to immortality involved. Using his knowledge of a beloved fantasy series he read in 6th grade with a friend who is now uber-smart and successful in the technology field, he eventually solves the mystery. I was a little disappointed by the ending.  I liked the story; I just wish it were a little more profound.


Going Vintage


Reached (Matched, #3)

The Painted Girls


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Spin Cams of what my students will be reading during spring break:

What are YOU reading this week?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's THIRSTday!

Thank you to David Etkin for starting a meme on his blog, {Eat the Book}. Today is Thursday THIRSTday: A beverage and a book.

My THIRSTday post each week is going to have a twist. One of my best friends, Karan Witham-Walsh, is an incredibly talented artist and makes pottery in her very own studio. She also teaches ceramics at a local high school. We decided to pair our passions: books and pottery! My beverage will be featured in her amazing designs. Check out the beautiful mug on her Etsy site!We thought this was a good one to feature since the book is humorous and the mug is whimsical. It also looks spring-ish, and we're hoping spring will arrive any day now!  Here is the direct link:  Eclectic Majolica Mug. It's on clearance!  She sells lots of beautiful, durable, amazing pottery there, so you can order the mug, or anything else you find and love, for yourself!! Enjoy your coffee!
A student just finished Ungifted by Gordon Korman and thought it was really funny, so I asked to borrow it when he was done.  I teach gifted kids, so I thought it would be a fun one to read.  I just started it, and I've already laughed aloud several times!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rescheduled World Read Aloud Day 2013

Full Image
We had a snow day on March 6th when the rest of world was celebrating reading aloud with LitWorld (I know I still spent lots of time reading that day, though, and I dare say, my students did, too!).  Authors, teachers, children,and students around the world talked about literacy and read their favorite books aloud.  Parents of my students told me their children prayed that school wouldn't be canceled (for the first time ever) because they knew we had some wonderful festivities planned. I loved hearing that!   In spite of the delay, we were still able to reschedule everything, and we had a wonderful day, just a week late.  First, you may need a little background on LitWorld and World Read Aloud Day.  Here are some inspiring and thoughtful videos to show you what it is all about:

Are you inspired?  Now, on to our day!!  I had invited parents to come in, share what reading aloud means to them, and read to us from picture books that meant something to their families.
 Lauren's mom brought in Goodnight Sun, Hello Moon by Karen Viola, illustrated by Chi Chung.  Her family loves the design of the book, and we loved the voices Lauren's mom used!  She talked about what a reader Lauren is and how much she loves books.  It was also interesting to hear some of Lauren's mom's history as a reader.


 Caleb's mom brought in A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein and shared a little about what reading means in their family.  We were very impressed that she could say the tongue twister rhymes, each page building on itself throughout the book.  The kids loved it!

Great picture of the four of them:
In between my first and second classes, we were honored with a Skype visit from nonfiction author Tanya Lee Stone.  She was so gracious to reschedule her time for us.  I'm very grateful because I would have had some disappointed kids on my hands if she couldn't have Skyped!  They were really excited about seeing her!  We read several of her books to get ready:
Almost Astronauts cover
 Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote
Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers

 Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
Tanya Lee Stone was so much fun to talk with!  We loved meeting her dog, Barney, who followed her from room to room while she walked with her laptop through the house to her desk computer.  He then settled in on a favorite chair behind her.  So cute!  Unfortunately, you'll see the sun streaming through the window in the room we were using, and we couldn't get the blinds to close tight enough!  Oh well.  We still enjoyed every minute (Thank you, Mrs. Bowman, for your room and projector/Promethean Board)!  She talked about researching, her writing process, topic selection, reading and writing nonfiction, etc.  Then she generously answered lots of questions the students prepared.
I loved what she had to say about nonfiction:
The kids wrote her thank you notes, and I picked out a few lines from them to share:
"I've never had the chance to Skype an author.  I'm interested in history like you are.  It's just so cool!  History might be the most important thing one day.  In fact, it's already one of the most important things." - Reece
"It was my first time Skyping, and it made it more special to Skype with an author like you!" - Blake
"Your dog, Barney, is adorable!  And, by the way, I know what you mean when you say he follows you throughout the house because I have a puppy who is 8 months old, and he acts like a shadow.  Literally." - Lauren
"I loved Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? because it inspired me to do anything no matter what stands in your way." - Annie
"Courage Has No Color was probably really hard to write if it took ten years." - Your Reader, Rishi
"One day when I'm older I want to be an author.  You will definitely be one of my inspirations."
- Gabriella
"It was really cool the way Elizabeth (Blackwell) kept fighting even when people told her it was impossible.  You are by far my favorite author.  By the way, I think Barney is super cute!" - Emma
"I now will admire the Triple Nickles forever.  Your work is just fantastic." - Neily
Stone's books stand for themselves, but the personal touch of a Skype session will leave an indelible mark with those kids.  She took time to talk to them and answer their questions.  They will never forget that.  She made some forever fans!
In my second class, I had a parent come in and surprise her daughter who didn't think she'd be able to come in because she's a teacher, but she was able to fit it in while her kids were at specials!  Emma's mom brought A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. 
We laughed about how many books Emma likes to have around her (reminds me of myself)!
Emma's mom talked to the kids about the theme of A Bad Case of StripesBe yourself!  Don't be afraid of what other people will think!

Jackson's mom brought in two books:  Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (which was all tattered from use!) and Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss.  We loved that she brought in Jackson's little sister, too!  She was so good and enjoyed listening to all the read alouds.  If you listen closely in the videos, you can hear her giggling.
We heard how much Jackson has always loved reading:
As you can hear, I was very excited about Goodnight, Moon (and so were some other kids).   I used to read it to my girls when they were babies.

Wow!  What an exciting and fun day!  I just love the community that reading creates.  I pray that everyone across the world will be exposed to the power of a written story.  Thank you, LitWorld, for initiating the day, and thank you to the authors that inspire us to share their stories, and thank you especially to my students and their parents for coming together to celebrate reading!  Oh, the places you'll go, kids, because of all the people who love you...and READING!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday!

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.

This week's nonfiction included:
Looking at Lincoln
A little girl (who reminds me of Madeleine) sees a very tall man while walking through the park one day who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln. That inspires her to learn more about him, so she goes to the library. The story then segues into facts about Lincoln's life. I think kids will like how biographical information is woven into a fictional story. I enjoyed the illustrations- they remind me of a whimsical version of Paul Gauguin's impressionism.

America the Beautiful: Presidential Quotations and National Symbols, Illustrated by 10 American Artists

America the Beautiful: Together We Stand by Katharine Lee Bates

2013-book, compare-contrast, history, nonfiction, nonfiction-challenge-2013, patriotic, picture-book, poetry, quotes, social-studies-connections, song

This is a beautiful book highlighting Katharine Lee Bates's poem "America the Beautiful," presidential quotes, and artwork by ten amazing illustrators. I love how each illustrator captures a different mood and theme of what America is, inspired by the quote. A fun classroom activity would be to compare and contrast the artists' styles.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
I've always enjoyed William Carlos Williams's poetry, and I love Melissa Sweet's work, so this biography by Jen  Bryant is a great combination of creativity! I've loved "The Red Wheelbarrow" ever since I read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech! Kids will be inspired to follow their own paths after reading about the evolution of his poetry, making his style his own. It's amazing that Williams was also a doctor.
What nonfiction are YOU reading this week?