Sunday, June 30, 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.

The Matchbox Diary
I loved this video on Paul Fleishman's website.  Talk about creativity!  Oh, my students would love to make these!

This is a beautiful book about an Italian immigrant grandfather who tells the story of his childhood to his granddaughter through mementos kept in matchboxes in an old cigar box. He inspires her to keep a diary when she is old enough to write, but in the meantime, she looks through her own collection kept in a chocolates box. The illustrations are rich and gorgeous - Ibatoulline was the illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is one of my favorite books as you well know if you read my blog! The present time is illustrated in color while the past is in sepia tones - perfect for teaching flashbacks. This picture book would be great to use with teaching memoir. I think kids would love to tell their stories through collections of their own. You can also pair it up with Machlachlan's Nora's Chicks and Say's Grandfather's Journey for immigration topics and Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Smith's Grandpa Green, and Lowry's Looking Back: A Book of Memories for ways to tell stories through objects. Ladder it with Applegate's Home of the Brave, Lord's In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and Lai's Inside Out & Back Again for experiences of immigrant kids struggling to learn English.  Do you want ideas on how to teach kids how to write memoirs?  I love Writing a Life: Teaching Memoir by Katherine Bomer:
Also, my friend and colleague, Megan Ginther wrote a terrific post today about teaching a memoir unit:
Lottie Paris and the Best Place
This is a cute story about two kids (Paris loves space and Carl loves dinosaurs) who meet up and become friends at the library. They're both a little naughty at the library, but the librarian smiles and shakes her head when they meet, knowing they will become friends.  The illustrations are lively and expressive. I loved the illustration of Carl's hip sister, Eva, driving him to the library.  Lottie Paris was introduced to us in Lottie Paris Lives Here.


Pi in the Sky

This is an incredibly inventive novel about Joss, the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. He lives in The Realms, a universe where things are constantly changing and where he has the seemingly unimportant job of delivering pies. One fateful day, however, someone catches a glimpse of The Realms through a telescope from Earth, and Joss's father has made it a rule that if someone from any planet sees The Realms, that planet must be destroyed. One girl, Annika, ends up in The Realms thinking she is dreaming, but could she be the last survivor from Earth? And how long can she survive in The Realms without oxygen? I think kids who love science will enjoy this adventure. I'll be interested in what my Wendy Mass fans in my class will think since this is a departure from her other books. I bet she had fun coming up with this one, though! My favorite chapter beginning quotes: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstien "You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury "The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part." - Richard P. Feyman This book also gives kids a good opportunity to learn more about Carl Sagan.
Prodigy (Legend, #2)

Awesome! This sequel, which I listened to on audio, to LEGEND did not disappoint, and of course, has left us at a cliffhanger. This story starts with June and Day in Vegas, trying to be inconspicuous. This proves to be difficult because Day is severely injured. An announcement comes on in the city that the Elector Primo is dead, and his son Anden will take his place. June and Day are perplexed that there is not a bigger deal made about this turn of events in the announcement. The Patriot rebels come to the pair's aid, but they have a tough ultimatum: in return for fixing Day's leg, the two must pledge their services to the Patriots. They must help with the assassination of the new Elector! They feel like they don't have a choice. Besides, Day would gladly kill the leader of the Society. They have done nothing but harm to Day's family, and they still have his brother, Eden. June has also been betrayed - her beloved brother was killed by the Society. June's job is to befriend Anden and lure him to the place where he will be assassinated. However, June learns something that will change everything. Lots of twists and turns in this one! Now we have to wait in anticipation for the third installment to see what happens next...
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Just to give you a taste of Saenz's mastery of language...

I don't know where to start with this book. I have so much to say. I have to be honest - at first, I wasn't sure if the boys were believable. They didn't sound like teenage boys to me. Of course, what would I know? I've never been a teenage boy, and I don't have teenage boys. However, as I read and realized what it was about (somehow I didn't even read a summary and had no idea what the plot was), I became completely in it. The story brought me to tears several times. The tone, conflict, and writing style reminded me of Silas House's Eli the Good and a little of Every Day by David Levithan. Ari and Dante are teenagers who meet and become best friends, sometimes laughing hysterically and sometimes strained with conflict. Ari is angry and withdrawn most of the time. He's confused about what it means to be growing up, and he misses his imprisoned older brother fiercely. His Vietnam War veteran father doesn't talk much, but he adores his mother. Dante is different from anyone Ari knows. His happiness is pure. He knows who he is, and he doesn't run from anything. He's crazy about his parents, which teaches Ari to be more forgiving towards his. Traumatic events interrupt both their lives, but they also teach the boys more about who they are. Resonating lines: "We don't always say the right things. Sometimes, it seems like it just hurts too much to look at something. So you don't." "To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing." "I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn't get - and never would get." "'Yeah, well, moms and God generally get along pretty well.'" Some other things I loved was Legs, the dog, and how he taught Ari to love and just BE. I also love how the book teaches us that traumatic events can transform us and make us better. I loved the way parents were portrayed in the book. If you're a "Glee" fan, Dante's father reminded me of Kurt's dad. I also thought the Mexican background of the boys was an interesting conflict for them. I loved that the story took place in the desert. Such an interesting backdrop for a theme topic of silence and secrets. SO much stuff in this book - can you tell??? This book won't be everyone - preview it first - there is definitely controversial content including drug and alcohol use and sexuality. However, the writing is beautiful, and the possibilities for discussion are endless.

The Silver Star
I was a huge fan of The Glass Castle, a memoir, and Half-Broke Horses, a novel based on the true story of Walls's grandmother, so I was excited about this fictional new novel. You can definitely recognize shades of characters and events from her real life through the tragic hardships and triumphs of Bean and Liz dealing with a dysfunctional family. Their mother is a manic artist who frequently abandons them for weeks at a time. The sisters take care of each other, but the younger sibling, Bean, has to step up as the novel progresses because Liz is increasingly fragile - brilliant but sensitive and prone to obsessive compulsiveness and possibly schizophrenia. She also suffers a traumatic event when they move to Virginia to live with their uncle, who also lives with his own demons - possibly depression and a tendency toward hoarding. I liked how the story parallels To Kill a Mockingbird. Another interesting aspect of the story is the introduction of the emus. Liz becomes attached to them when they wander onto Uncle Tinsley's property from a neighboring farm. They mirror her own feelings of helplessness: "'They're so weird and so beautiful,' she said. 'Like you,' I said. I meant it as a joke, but Liz nodded. She felt that she was sort of like an emu herself, she said. Maybe that was why she'd had flying dreams ever since she was a little girl - at heart, she was an emu. She was sure the emus also dreamed of flying. It was another thing they had in common. Both she and the emus wanted to fly - they just didn't have the wings they needed." I thought that was so sad. I think this book can also be categorized as a young adult novel. The toughness and survival skills of outspoken Bean would inspire young readers and there would be lots to talk about with teen students.

A Prayer For Owen Meany
Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)
The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, #1)
A couple weeks ago, I started updating you on what my family is reading, also.  My husband decided on:
The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)
My 17-year-old daughter:
 The Secret Life of Prince Charming

I love that she has spent the month of June reading anything she wanted, and she read A LOT!  Now she has to start on her AP summer assignments. :-(

My 20-year-old is on a mission trip in Ecuador, so I doubt she's reading a lot right now!!  I'll update her reading choices when she gets back. 

My mom:

And the Mountains Echoed

I sent my mom this book for an early birthday present for her Kindle Fire after I read it.  We're trying to hold our own mother/daughter book club after being inspired by The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  Neither of us (God willing) are at the end of our lives, but we didn't want to wait for that to have our own two person book club! ;-)

My dad:

Diamondback McCall

My dad loves Westerns!  My mom gave him a Kindle for his birthday, and he's really enjoying it.

What are YOU reading this week??

Mock Newbery 2014 Club Summer Meeting #1

Our first summer Mock Newbery 2014 Club meeting was so fun!  I loved that we had a great turnout on a cloudy June day.  We caught up with each other's summers so far.  We all agreed that it is going too fast!  Some kids have gone on great vacations, so we shared stories of those trips.  I loved that everyone brought the books they were reading and have read, and many shared.  Here are some books we talked about:
Doll Bones
Lindsay and I LOVED this book and both gave it 5 stars!
Adam has this in his stack of library books.  We are both looking forward to reading it!  The cover is so eye-catching!
Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked
Tyler read this one and said it was really funny.  He gave us a summary on it, but no spoilers! :-)
Pi in the Sky
Since I was in the middle of this one, I shared it and made Ava really mad that I wouldn't give it to her yet since I wasn't finished. I knew she'd be excited about a new Wendy Mass book!
Quinn is reading this one.  I was excited she was reading it because I wanted to hear if it has "kid appeal."  I loved it, but I hadn't "kid tested" it yet.  She'll let us know her final thoughts next month, I hope!  Speaking of "kid appeal," Stephen suggested kid readers should be on the Newbery Committee.  I agree!  I think it should take all my Mock Newbery Club kids! :-)
This is another book I loved, but I hadn't given it to any kids yet.  Stephen is in the middle of it, gave a summary of it so far, and said he really liked it.  He thought it might not appeal to all kids, but to kids who love reading, it would.  He thought it had beautiful language.
Maggie was excited about Clare Vanderpool because she's reading:
Moon Over Manifest
One of things we're doing is reading former Newbery Award winners and honors so we can determine what characteristics we think the Newbery committee is looking for.  Maggie is enjoying this one. 
Another former Newbery winner several kids have been reading and enjoying is:
The Wednesday Wars
I always recommend Okay For Now after kids get done with this one.  It's a companion novel, and I like it even more than Wednesday Wars!  That's saying a lot because I LOVED Wednesday Wars!
Other former Newbery books kids were reading or have read this summer include:
Island Of The Blue Dolphins
Lauren said she emotionally connected to the characters in this book!
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Kaleigh is reading this one.  This was one of my favorites when I was in fifth or sixth grade!
Here are some more 2013 books we discussed:
Genie Wishes
Calynn told us about this one, and I think it sounds great!  The reviews are terrific.
33 Minutes
We liked the title of this one!
Destiny, Rewritten Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Cassandra brought along these two - Lauren read Rump, too, and really liked it.
Jackson read this one, and now Emma is reading it.  It's about a boy who stutters.  I'm looking forward to reading it.
Wake Up Missing
At the very end, I shared this one - it hasn't come out yet (September), but I got it from Kate Messner, and it's signed to our class!!  I really liked it - it's science fiction - creepy and exciting! It's going to fly around my club!
Every Day After
I finished this one on vacation and LOVED it.  I want all my students to read it! 
We talked about some other books that aren't 2013 OR Newbery books, but that's ok.  Whenever we get together, we can talk about ANY books!  Abby F. is rereading Harry Potter.  It's one of those masterpieces that never won the Newbery, but we all love it anyway, right?  I've always wanted to reread the whole series.  Maybe one day...
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
Abby M. told us about:
Just Grace
We will meet again in July and once more in August before school starts.  I can't wait to talk more about books with these kids.  They are so full of enthusiasm!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Unleashing Readers Blog Hop

I was so excited to get a tweet from Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers asking if I would like to participate in their launch week's blog hop!  Of course I would!  I've had fun reading their posts throughout the week - introductions of Kellee and Ricki, navigation tips for their new blog, and today a post of their favorite books in various categories.  Now, it's my turn to share my favorites in those categories!  It's not easy to narrow each choice to only one (I cheated in one category - sorry), but I did the best I could.
It was a hard decision to decide between Wonder and Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan!  I loved both because they create community, empathy, and strong emotions!  They're both testimonies to the power of friendship and kindness.
Out of My Mind
We read this book during a unit on empathy and realistic fiction, and I met with a group of seven students. We had so much to talk about!  It also happens to be the book for this year's Global Read Aloud.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Kate DiCamillo's books are packed with symbolism, allusions, amazing characters, and figurative language.  They are lyrical and magical.  I think an author study of all her books would make for fabulous close reading! I wrote a blog post for Nerdy Book Club about using Edward Tulane for analysis after I read How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1)
I just love this book, and so do all my students!  Make sure you have the whole series because your kids will want to read all of them! 

Favorite Book

Harry Potter Boxset (Harry Potter, #1-7)
I know this is kind of cheating, but I have to choose an entire series for this category! If you want to hear my whole rational for why this is my favorite series of all time, read the post I wrote about it:

I'm going to add one more category. ;-) 

Favorite 2013 Book So Far

Every Day After

I just loved it, and it's my pick so far for the 2014 Newbery!  I know more books will be coming out, and I know there are some other major contenders, but this one stole my heart.
Thank you, Kellee and Ricki, for giving me the opportunity to participate in your launch week and blog hop.  Best of luck to you and your new blog, Unleashing Readers!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Teachers Write Classroom Reflection

Donalyn Miller was the special guest blogger at Teachers Write this morning.  She wrote about her love/hate relationship with writing and her path in becoming a published writer.  At the end of her post, she encouraged us to write about our classrooms.  Her post came at the perfect time since my colleague, Megan Ginther, and I are working on a professional book together.  We have to do some pep talking for each other along the way as we outline and flesh out our ideas, reassuring ourselves and each other that we have something worth writing about and that we want to share it.  Sharing writing can be an excruciating experience, for our students and ourselves.  We have to keep writing and sharing in order to put ourselves in our students' shoes again and again.  I've gotten closer to the kind of reading teacher I want to be by reading voraciously along with my students.  Now, I need to get closer to the kind of writing teacher I want to be by writing voraciously.  I wrote a classroom reflection shortly after school was out, and credited Donalyn, so now seems the perfect time to share it!
(I don't have a title yet - any suggestions?)

Morning talk time before class starts, Katie at my desk.  “I have good news and bad news, Mrs. Mueller.” 

     “Ooh – I want the good news first!”

     “Okay.  The good news is that I made a reader out of my mom this year!”

     “That’s so awesome, Katie!  What could possibly be the bad news?”  I lament, my brow furrowed.

     “Well, she’s taking all my books!”

     I smile broadly and chuckle.  “Oh no.  That could be a problem!” I commiserate, and she grins and walks back to her desk to grab a book.

     Pulling up chair to read aloud corner, waiting for others to get situated.  Michael chats with me.  “You know something I would’ve never done before this year?”

     “Hmmm….what?” I brace myself.  Why are we pessimists sometimes?

     “I read every night in my bed for an hour and a half!”

     Whew!  “That’s awesome!  You would’ve never done that before this year?”

     “No way.  I thought about it a few times, but didn’t really have anything I wanted to read.”

     “That’s so cool, Michael.  That makes me happy!”

     Transition time, moving from desks to computers, Susan sidles up beside me.  “I can’t wait for summer.”

   “Oh, I love summer, too!  What are you looking forward to most about summer, Susan?”

     “Well, reading of course!  Lots of reading!  I wasn’t really a reader last summer, but now I am, so I want lots of time to read.”

     Sigh of satisfaction and delight.  “Susan, I am so happy to hear that!  I can’t wait to have more time to read, too!”

     Parent at meeting.  “Jamie has always been more of a math person until this year.  We were in the car the other day, and he just said, ‘Reading is my life now.’”

     Parent e-mail after two weeks of school.   “Two weeks in and I'm already thrilled with this newfound love of reading in Kaylee- and I already thought she liked to read! I've seen such a change in her already. Thanks!”

     What happened in my class?  I teach high readers – readers who have qualified as gifted in reading with a 95th percentile on a screening test.  Readers who began reading at an early age.  Readers whose parents said they liked to read.  Readers who wanted to talk about what they’re reading.  Readers who knew how to read.  Readers who may have come to fourth grade having read the entire Harry Potter series – up to seven times in one reader’s case.  However, somehow many of these kids were coming to class without a passion for books and/or a way to read deeply and widely.  Without the experience of a teacher who reads as voraciously as they want to read, they weren’t necessarily joyful and courageous readers.  They were kids who hadn’t necessarily talked or written in depth about their reading or belonged to a passionate reading community. 

     I believe they found what they were looking for in a teacher who surrounded them with books written by amazing writers.   One parent stopped me at the public library and said, “I think she caught ‘the reading bug’ from you.”  This was a girl who everyone knew was a gifted reader and was happy to read.  Well, she was, but she wasn’t “turned on” by books yet.  Her mom was waiting for that to happen and finally it did.  It’s not rocket science.  Books are my passion, and I pass that
passion on to my students.  Just because someone is gifted at something doesn’t mean they will love it.  A passionate mentor needs to come alongside to open up possibilities.

     This didn’t always happen in my classroom.  I’ve always loved books (I have my B.A. in English Literature, after all), but I didn’t always read as widely or voluminously.  I enjoyed trying to match kids with books, but I had a limit to the number of titles I knew and frequently taught whole class classic children’s novels.  A couple years ago I read The Book Whisperer and was taught the value of expecting kids to read a large number of books during the school year.  I was skeptical.  I was reading mostly adult fiction, several professional books, and probably only  5-10 children’s books a year.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to even recommend that many titles, or actually convince kids that they wanted to read that many books.   But once they were challenged, I was challenged, too.  An amazing community of teachers was brought to my attention at a Dublin Literacy Conference several years ago that helped in the endeavor, also.  Franki Sibberson, in particular, opened my eyes to social media and its role in exchanging ideas, book recommendations, and exposing inspiring classrooms.  Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook are full of authors and educators who have a passion for readers and learners and want to share that excitement.  I had to catch “the reading bug” too, and that has made all the difference.

Thursday, June 27, 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.
For many of these Thursday posts, I feature the book I'm reading with my potter friend's mug.  However, both Karan Witham-Walsh and I have been on vacation and haven't been able to get together for that feature.  I'm going to show you LAST week's beverage and a book first.  I was lounging by the BELLAGIO pool in Las Vegas!  I enjoyed reading the ARC of Kate Messner's new book, Wake Up Missing, coming out in September.  You can read my review of it here:
I can't resist showing you the view from our room in Bellagio. Amazing!

THIS week I'm back to reality.  I'm trying to finish this new book, Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass before my first Mock Newbery 2014 Club summer meeting later today so I can share it.  I have some major Wendy Mass enthusiasts in my classes, so they're going to want to borrow it from me!  I'm showing you a mug with it that one of my students got for me as an end-of-the-year gift.  It's so pretty!  One of the things I love about summer is that I have plenty of time to drink coffee!
I hope you are enjoying a beverage and a book today.  If so, comment below and let me know!