Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA - Nonfiction

Today's Armchair BEA is nonfiction.  Here are my favorite ADULT NONFICTION:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (looking forward to her new book, The Silver Star
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - I especially love the play
I'm looking forward to seeing what other Armchair Bloggers say are their favorite nonfiction books!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA - Literary Fiction and Giveaway

Today's Armchair BEA topic is literary fiction, my favorite!  I LOVE literary fiction because it gives you so much to think and talk about, and I love the writing that goes into it.  Here are the prompts today:

What books have you read this year that would fit into this category?  The adult literary fiction (I'm going pretty broad here - historical, contemporary realistic, book club - worthy) I've read in the last twelve months that I liked very much or loved includes:

To Be Sung Underwater  The Light Between Oceans  The Blessings of the Animals  The Shoemaker's Wife

A Good American  The Language of Flowers  The Storyteller
Is there anything coming up that you're particularly excited about?  YES!  I can't wait to read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and will be attending an author event tomorrow night featuring him - can't wait!
What authors/novels would you recommend to someone new to the genre?  Since we're talking about Khaled Hosseini, I would recommend The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, two of my all-time favorite literary fiction novels.  I also loved:
The Help  The Poisonwood Bible  Water for Elephants  The Snow Child
Are there any misconceptions or things that you'd like to clear up for people unfamiliar with literary fiction?  I think literary fiction can be contemporary and also popular - it doesn't have to be high-brow or classic.  I'm a teacher, and one of the mistakes I think we make as teachers is that we make kids read classics when they don't necessarily connect to them. 
What got you started into this kind of book?  I'm an English Literature major, but honestly, even though I loved classics, the contemporary literary fiction books I read for books clubs are my favorite!
I also have LOTS of children's books and young adult literary fiction favorites, but I'm concentrating on adult fiction for this post.
Since I'm going to the Khaled Hosseini event tomorrow night, I think it's only right that I share his new book with you!  Only two criteria...comment and follow/join my blog!!  I'll pick from a hat a winner that has done those two things, and you will get a copy of And the Mountains Echoed in the mail!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA - Genre Fiction and Blogging

Today's Armchair BEA topic is genre fiction (fiction read for entertainment, not literary fiction). 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)  Prodigy (Legend, #2)  Delirium (Delirium, #1)  Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)  Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)   

 Here are the questions:

If you’re a reader of genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, romance) do you have a favourite author or series?  I have to admit, I'm a bigger fan of literary fiction when it comes to adult literature than genre fiction.  When I read genre fiction, my favorite is young adult.  I've enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES, THE DIVERGENT SERIES, LEGEND AND PRODIGY, THE DELIRIUM SERIES, and am now listening to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.  I love dystopian young adult books. My favorite genre fiction adult book is THE STAND by Stephen King.  And what keeps bringing you back for more fantasy/sci fi/horror etc? In young adult lit, I love the survival theme and romance in dystopian, fantasy, and science fiction.  I’m also curious to hear why you think these genres often don’t get the recognition they deserve. I think genre fiction is looked down upon because it is so popular and seemingly inane.  Many of them are made into popular movies, which makes them seem even more appealing to the masses.  Literary fiction seems more directed to serious readers.  Maybe some readers feel like fans of genre fiction aren't "real" readers.  However, I like to read everything.  When it comes to book club books, though, I do prefer literary fiction.  I think there is more to discuss.

Our other topic today is blogger development.  Here are some questions on the post: Have you branched out into your community? I love to read my favorite blogs and learn from them.  I've definitely enjoyed becoming a part of the teacher/reader community by reading blogs and writing my own.  Do you partner with other bloggers? No, I don't partner with other bloggers.  That would be fun!  I have participated in memes and contests for giveaways.  Have you gone "pro" or tried generating some income through your blog? No.  If you're a long-term blogger, how has your online personality developed over the years?  I've only blogged for a year, but I've realized what blog posts generate the most interest, and I've tried to hone in on those topics. Tell us about things you've done to expand your blogging horizons, and the things you'd like to do but haven't managed (or figured out) yet. Getting involved in the Twitter and Facebook blogger community has helped me a lot.  One thing I'd like to know is how to gain more followers.

I'm looking forward to reading what other say about these topics!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA Introduction

I just signed up for Armchair BEA since I can't actually go to the Book Expo America and the Book Bloggers convention, so this is the virtual alternative.  It will be fun, too!  The first task as an Armchair BEA blogger is to introduce myself.  Questions were posted here:

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?   I am a gifted intervention specialist teaching 4th grade accelerated readers.  I will be moving on to the intermediate building in my district next year, so I get to teach this group of 4th graders two more years!  I will be teaching accelerated 5th/6th grade ELA (English/Language Arts).  I've been blogging for almost a year now.  I got started last summer when I was taking Teachers Write!, sponsored and facilitated by Kate Messner.  I wanted a place to write about teaching and books.
  2. Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures. I am blogging from Lebanon, Ohio.  We are an historic town, settled by pioneers after the American Revolution.  Lebanon's most famous site is The Golden Lamb, Ohio's oldest hotel!  We also host a beautiful event every year, the Christmas Horse-Drawn Carriage Parade.  It's especially amazing at night because of all the lights donned by the horses.
  3. Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event? I have not participated in the Armchair BEA before, but I started seeing other bloggers write about it, and I love to talk about books!
  4. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013? I am currently reading The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton for my book club and am listening to The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  One of the best adult books I read so far in 2013 was The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  One of the best children's books I read in 2013 (I read it first in 2012, but read it again aloud to my classes in 2013) was The One and Only Ivan, the 2013 Newbery Award Winner by Katherine Applegate.
  5. Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. I grew up in the country and loved to hunt, fish, and participate in 4-H.  I showed ducks, chickens, and a goat in the Warren County Fair!  
  6. Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s). That is SO hard because I love so many of them.  I would have to say it's a tie between Watch.Connect.Read and Nerdy Book Club because Mr. Schu, Colby Sharp, and Donalyn Miller are book experts for kids, and I learn a lot about teaching reading from them.
  7. Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read? I think it would have to be Parent/Student Book Club at the Cincinnati Zoo because it was such a wonderful day, and I'm so glad I had a place to record the memory.
  8. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? Wow.  This seems like an impossible question because there are so many!  Living author: Maya Angelou because I saw her speak once and was transfixed by her wisdom and presence.  Deceased author: E.B. White because I love everything about him and his writing. Character: Harry Potter because I miss him.
  9. What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?  Real Place: the Tuscan countryside from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes because of her descriptions of how beautiful it is!  Imaginary Place: Hogwarts, of course.
  10. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? I love the ideas I get and the sense of camaraderie among book-lovers.
I'm looking forward to participating in all the Armchair BEA events and hope to get to know more bloggers!

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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:
A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner
This story is lots of fun - action, adventure, time travel, history. The series is set up like The 39 Clues, each book written by different authors. This would be a great series to introduce to a kid who liked The Magic Treehouse series and needs more challenging material. Dak and Sera are friends who find a project that Dak's parents have been working on, and they complete it, realizing they have a time travel device. Soon they are swept up into an adventure that includes saving the world from the power-hungry SQ by going back in time to alter history. One of their first stops is to stop a mutiny involving Christopher Columbus. I didn't always love Dak's character, but I think kids will love the humor and action. I liked Kate Messner's Goodreads Review suggesting to pair this up with Georgia Bragg's HOW THEY CROAKED: THE AWFUL ENDS OF THE AWFULLY FAMOUS. I have that book in my classroom library, and kids could get good and grossed out at Columbus's chapter. Kate also has a great idea to use this book as a writing prompt: "What if..." How would changing one incident in history change the course of events? Great cause and effect activity!
A Tangle of Knots

This reminded me a little of SAVVY by Ingrid Law and PIE by Sarah Weeks. I have to say I had a hard time keeping the characters straight, so I'm glad I read it before I started giving it to students. That way I can talk to them about strategies for that. Of course, they may not have any trouble at all!  I'll need to read it again now that I know how the story unfolded so I can pay attention to other details and the richness of the writing. I liked the mystery of the whole thing and how the characters came together. The cake recipes are fun, and I loved the tone. Cady, the 11-year-old orphan who has a Talent for baking just the right cakes for people, was endearing. I loved her story.  This book is getting a lot of attention right now and may be a Newbery contender!
The Higher Power of Lucky (The Hard Pan Trilogy, #1)

This is a quirky story about Lucky, whose mother died from electrocution a couple years previously in a storm. She's kept the urn of her ashes ever since, not being able to part with them. Her father arranged for his first wife, Frenchwoman Brigitte, to come to California to be her guardian. Lucky doesn't quite trust that Brigitte is there for the long haul. The town in which they live, Hard Pan, only has a population of 43, and Lucky has quite the eclectic group of characters as friends: Short Sammy, a recovering alcoholic, Lincoln, a knot tying expert (funny that was reading A Tangle of Knots) and young Miles, who has a missing mother of his own and is obsessed with the book Are You My Mother? Lucky eavesdrops on twelve-step programs while she is earning extra money sweeping up after Anonymous meetings and hears lots of talk about Higher Powers. She wonders what HERS is and seeks to find it. There are some mature discussions in the book, one being "hitting rock bottom" and if that's what it takes to seek a higher power. Since Lucky works at a building where twelve-step program meetings take place, she hears a lot about addictions.  This book also got some controversy with its use of the word "scrotum."  Obviously, the Newbery committee disagreed with the argument that the word was inappropriate and praised the book anyway based on the merits of the story.

The Secret Keeper
Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
Prodigy (Legend, #2)

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)
If you enjoy my blog posts, please consider joining my blog and/or subscribing to e-mail updates.  Both options are on the right hand side of the blog - just scroll down to the bottom.  It would make my day!
What are YOU reading this week?



Saturday, May 25, 2013

40 Book Challenge Celebration

This was year two of using Donalyn Miller's idea of the 40 Book Challenge from The Book Whisperer in my classroom.  Last year I was a 5th grade language arts teacher in the regular classroom.  I was hesitant about the whole idea at first, ashamedly feeling skeptical that my students could really read 40 books in a school year.  However, after somewhat half-heartedly convincing them and their parents (and myself) they really could do it...they did!!  Not all of them - some fell short of the goal, but their reading totals were still something to celebrate since they still read more that school year than they ever had before, and all of them read more genres than previous years. Read my blog post of that year's reflection:  I discuss wrestling with grading the challenge and other tweaking of it to make it mine.

This year I was the gifted intervention specialist for 4th grade gifted reading in a new district.  I pulled kids out of their regular literacy block and taught them reading.  I knew I would use the 40 Book Challenge again, but would need to adjust it for 4th grade, but also for gifted readers.  Since it was 4th grade, I lowered the number of pages that equaled a book.  I changed it to 100 pages.  However, I kept the 40 book number the same.  I also kept the same chart that Donalyn Miller provides in her book.  The response from kids and parents was enthusiastic and positive.  The kids started right away!  After the first quarter, I had the kids reflect over their reading.  I posted those results here:

On Friday, which is the last day I would be with my students (they'll still be in school next week, but will be participating in field trips, field day, chorus performances, and awards ceremonies), we celebrated our reading totals.  It was a beautiful day, so we enjoyed the sunshine, treats, and swinging on the swing set.  I hadn't actually swung on a swing set in ages, and I laughed out loud with the kids.  Priceless!  No one can worry about state test scores, common core adaptation, and negative teacher images (or anything else for that matter) when you're swinging on a swing set in the spring sunshine surrounded by laughing 4th graders!

I admit I had a little dyslexia there - the total is actually 416.  Oops!

They couldn't resist a silly picture!

Next year I will be moving up with this crew to the intermediate building and will be teaching 5th and 6th grade gifted ELA, which is also a pull-out program.  I've already asked this group if they think we should increase the challenge to 50 books.  I may also increase the number of pages that count for a book - maybe 120 or 150?  They want me to make the challenge for 6th graders 60 books!  One student said it was a good thing I wouldn't be teaching them when they're 10th graders or they would be challenged to read 100 books.  Ha!  I sure hope someone DOES challenge them to that, though, don't you?!