Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Slice of Life - Harry Potter

Normally, my Wednesday post features children's nonfiction.  Today, I'm writing a Slice of Life post instead.
I've been participating in Slice of Life this summer, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
Kazu Kibuishi designed new covers to commemorate the anniversary.
Unfortunately, yesterday my internet was down, which was such a bummer because I desperately wanted to blog about Harry Potter ON the 15th anniversary of the series, August 27th,  and I wanted to write it as a Slice of Life post.  Oh well - here it is a day late!  I'm recycling an older post about what the series meant to our family.
 In 1998, the year Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in the United States, our oldest daughter, Libby, was five, and she was an avid reader. She first read it when she was in first grade. Much to my shame, when she asked me to read it afterward because she loved it so much, I put it off. I can't explain why I did that. I feel a little like some of the first publishers who read and rejected it must feel like today. Fortunately, that didn't stop Libby from pursuing fellow Harry Potter readers. At that time, my husband traveled a lot, so she brilliantly slipped the copy of the book into his suitcase without saying a word about it, burying it below a few t-shirts. Ed remembers opening up his suitcase late that evening in the hotel and discovering it. Of course, he read it. Who could resist that kind of marketing? After sharing his enthusiasm with me and chuckling about the way he was introduced to it, I finally read it. The magic had begun...
I often call it the second greatest story ever told, and part of my love of the series includes the way the entire Harry Potter saga wove its way through our family and friends. My younger daughter, Katie, also loved the series, and so did our closest friends and their kids. We went to every midnight book release party together (yes - in costume - we were THOSE people), a Harry Potter train ride through our quaint little town, every midnight movie release, and devoured every new installment in the series, buying multiple copies of each one when it was released so we didn't have to wait for another family member to finish it so we could read it. I'll never forget the feeling of those midnight book release parties at various bookstores, anticipating the opening of those piles of boxes marked "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL...," trying to vie for a good place in line in order to get our hands on the freshly published, never-before-opened books. We had never before experienced that, and we probably never will again.

Getting ready to go to the midnight book release of
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2005

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Midnight Movie Premier
Libby's Senior Year 2011 (Libby is ALWAYS Dumbledore)

Jim Trelease, the read-aloud expert, has written many times about the effect Harry Potter has had on our culture and reading. He has argued that the Harry Potter series raised vocabulary and comprehension skills among children. In this article, "Two Lessons from Harry Potter," he researched the word count in several classics and found this:

  • Goosebumps: 8 words per sentence; 22,450 words in book.
  • Heidi: 19.6 words per sentence; 93,600 words in book.
  • The Hobbit: 18 words per sentence; 97,470 words in book.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 15 words per sentence; 126,000 words in book.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 13.5 words per sentence; 214,536 words in book.

  • Reading the Harry Potter series is no simple feat! If your child isn't ready to tackle this kind of reading, the next best thing is to listen to the incredible Jim Dale read them on audio. It is a theatrical experience. He created over 200 voices throughout the series...a staggering number!

    I remember where I was when I finished the final intallment of the Harry Potter series in 2009 (on our basement couch), and as I relunctantly read the very last words, I was stunned into silence and tears. I couldn't believe it was over. Fortunately, though, he'll live in our family fabric forever. As seems fitting (and somewhat magical), the series began in Libby's life when she was a first grader, and it ended with the last movie her senior year. Harry's and Libby's lives just seemed to intertwine that way. You can imagine how I felt leaving the last movie, in the wee hours of the morning. The feelings were compounded because we had also lost a dear friend of ours a couple months before, and he was a big fan of the movies.  I was so sorry he didn't get to see the last one.  It was the end of an era in many ways. Thank you, Harry Potter. We miss you, our relunctant hero.

    "’It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.’” (Dumbledore) p. 718

    Monday, August 26, 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.
    Well, you can certainly tell that I've started back to school because I finished a grand total of ONE book this week!  Surely that will improve as I come back up for air, right?!  The good news is that the ONE book I did finish packed a powerful punch and started a flurry of Twitter conversations about involving kids in social change that I hope will come to fruition!! More about that to follow!  It was published in 2011, so I wish I hadn't waited so long to read it, but I finally did, and am SO glad!

    This story is told in the points of view of two children in Sudan: Nya, a young girl in 2008 who has to walk two hours to fetch water for her family twice a day, and a young boy, Salva, in 1985 who becomes a "lost boy" of Sudan as a result of war and must travel extremely long distances over Africa to find safety. Both children must overcome incredibly difficult hardships in order to survive. The ending is just amazing. When I finished it, I was on my way to my college daughter's apartment. One of her roommates founded a Living Water, Int. group on Miami University's campus.  I knew she would love the book, so I handed it to her when we got there.  I was right!  She Facebook messaged me later telling me how perfect it was!  I agree!  She started brainstorming ways we could help her organization.  Then I tweeted out that I loved it and included David Etkin on the tweet because he's talked about that book for awhile.  That started a whole conversation about how we could use it as our first read aloud and get the kids involved in a water project!  A first-year 4th/5th grade teacher, @MrSheskeyReads jumped in, too, so we may all three be partnering in this project. I talked to another sixth grade teacher at my building today, and she had already planned on reading it to her classes and wanted to plan a service project, also, so we'll increase our numbers that way.   SO exciting!  David found this awesome t-shirt.  Our motto, maybe?  Stay tuned!


    Video summary of my daughter's friends on their Guatemala project:

    I thought about all the reading and research the kids could do around this book.  I love that books and stories can inspire action!

    Check out a Wonderopolis Wonder of the Day that applies:

    I like to share what my family is reading:

    My husband:
    A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

    My 17-year-old

    A Thousand Splendid Suns

    My 20-year-old (Yes, still! It's long!):
    The Source

    My mom:
    Hattie Ever After (Hattie, #2)

    My dad:

    Matt Train

    What are YOU reading this week?  I hope I have more books to report about next week, but if I only had to have one this week, A Long Walk to Water was a good one!


    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    My Word and Book for the Year: Journey

    When my mom and I attended the Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat in August, Debbie shared that she chooses a word every year as a mantra.  I loved that idea.  I immediately started thinking about what I would want my word to be.  As a teacher, I also thought I'd like that word to apply to the school year, too, and I could share it with my students.  Debbie feels that her word is chosen for her by God, and I loved that, too.  Shortly after the retreat, my writing colleague, Megan Ginther, and I were meeting at our favorite writing and shopping spot, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and I bought the book Journey by Aaron Becker.  I already blogged about this book last week, but I have a feeling I will be blogging about it several more times even after this post!  It's the perfect book to start off a school year, and after I shared it with my students, I am convinced I've found my word:  JOURNEY


    On Friday, I showed my fifth grade classes the book trailer, which is magical, and then shared the book as our first read aloud together.  It is wordless, so we had a discussion of all the literacy skills necessary to read a wordless book:  you have to infer, know the basic elements of a story, interpret images, predict, connect, use background knowledge, make meaning from images, etc.  I had many of my students as fourth graders last year, and I've shared other wordless books with them, so they knew what to do!  I wish I had set up a video camera from my point of view so you could have seen their faces as I showed them each two-page spread!!  That experience was priceless, and I'll remember to do it next time!  I always instruct the kids to be completely silent when I share a wordless book because I don't want anyone to influence the thinking and imagination of anyone else.  I always promise them they will all get to talk afterward, however!  After I closed the book, I invited them to turn and talk to the student next to them.  (I gather my students around close to me when I read aloud, as opposed to reading from the front of the room with students at their desks - I find it's much more intimate.)  They immediately started focused conversations, and I beamed as I heard snippets of their conversations.  I only let them talk for about a minute because I don't want any awkward silences to start happening, and then I opened up the conversation to the whole class.  I loved what they shared!  These are the connections they made:

    Blackout by John Rocco
    Harold and the Purple Crayon - the book and the t.v. show
    Bluebird by Bob Staake
    Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell
    The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
    City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
    The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
    And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead

    Wow!  These are all books I shared with them in 4th grade, and they remembered them all!  I promised some of my new students that I would make a stack of those books for them to read.  They were happy about that!  Here are the things they said about why they made these connections:

    Symbolism of color and lack of color
    Expressions of loneliness
    Circular structure
    Leaving a legacy theme
    Imagination and curiosity
    Disconnecting from technology
    Connecting with others

    Now you know why I love this book so much.  I even had a student say Aaron Becker's next book should focus on the color blue because red and blue make purple (read the book, and you'll know why purple is significant).  There you go, Mr. Becker - your next book planned. ;-)

    We ran out of time before I could start a concept map on journeys (we're also going to add the word QUEST to our first unit) and then write Quick Writes about journeys, so we'll continue that on Monday.  It will give me a good excuse to share the book with them again!

    The word JOURNEY is a perfect word for me this year.  I'm embarking on journeys that include new grade levels and school/staff, I'm writing a book with Megan and we are writing for Choice Literacy, my youngest daughter is entering her senior year in high school, my oldest daughter moved into her first apartment, and my parents are moving to Florida.  I don't doubt that there will be other journeys that will add to those.  Journeys can be bittersweet, exciting, joyful, scary, and rewarding.  Thank you Aaron Becker, for showing us that so beautifully!  Don't forget that the #Sharpschu Book Club is talking about Journey on September 25th! 

    What journeys are you embarking on this year?  If you had to choose a word for a year, what would it be?

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Nonfiction Wednesday

    Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more children's nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.
    This week I read:
    My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    This book gives insight to Martin Luther King, Jr. as a father. His son describes him as warm and playful, but he knew what an important man he was to social change. It's so sad that Martin Luther King III was only ten years old when his father was killed. The illustrations are warm and bold, capturing the heart of both father and son. This would make a nice pairing with My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris. 
         Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song
    Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahalia Jackson were partners in the civil rights movement. They both used their voices to make changes, inspiring people by using their gifts - he with his moving speeches and she with her songs. I love the last couple page spreads when the book culminates like a gospel song, singing "Amen, Amen, Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, Glory Hallelujah!" Brian Pinkney's illustrations are energetic, full of movement. A dove is flying throughout the story, symbolizing peace, and explained more fully in the illustrator's notes in the back. Andrea Pinkney teaches us a lot about this inspiring pair. The whole design of the book is creative and lively.
    Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart
    I loved seeing Ruth Elder in this video.  Hang in there - she comes on about halfway through.
    I love stories about the women pioneers in flight. Ruth Elder looked like a beauty queen, but she didn't want to follow conventions in 1927 and stay home to keep house. She wanted to fly an airplane. She wasn't able to cross the Atlantic Ocean flying solo, but that didn't stop her. She still captured America's hearts and went on to the Vaudeville stage and Hollywood. She also competed in the "Powder Puff Derby," a cross-country air race along with nineteen other women, including Amelia Earhart. Elder finished fifth. I really enjoyed the illustrations in this story.
    What nonfiction have YOU enjoyed this week?

    Monday, August 19, 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 last week. 
    The Story of Fish and Snail


    I LOVED this book! When Fish and Snail are yelling at each other (after Fish tries to convince timid Snail to join him on his story adventures and Snail refuses), and Fish "stomps" off anyway, then Snail feels lonely and sorry, then both forgive each other, it reminds me of my childhood best friend and me. We used to love playing together, then we'd get into a fight and yell at each other, both stomping off to our respective houses.  Once we got home, we immediately felt regret.  What a great testimony to friendship, compromise, and forgiveness in this book.  The illustrations are glorious. I'd love to read this at the beginning of my fear and conflict unit! Yay, Deborah Freedman!

    This is a gorgeous book! I read it to prepare for the September #sharpschu book club, and I think it's my favorite picture book of 2013 so far. The beginning reminded me of John Rocco's Blackout because a bored, lonely girl can't find anyone in her busy family to spend time with her. When she discovers a red marker and draws a doorway on the wall, an incredible adventure ensues. The illustrations are beautiful and intricate, and I love the girl's modes of transportation through her travels, eventually leading her to a grand act of kindness. I think I will use this book to open my unit on journeys/quests.  I liked this book so much, I did a whole blog post on it over the weekend.

    This simple story shows how bullying might get started. Bull is told to "GO AWAY!" by a bigger bull, so he turns around and starts bullying Rabbit, Chicken, and Turtle when they ask him to play. Fun word play follows as Bully insults each animal according to their characteristics. When they all DO go away, Bull feels badly. Kids will laugh at the humor, but will understand the implications of bullying. Good conversation starter for the beginning of the year for young children. This is my last summer #bookaday!
    Zebra Forest
    Annie is supposed to write about three wishes for her teacher, so she makes them up, but her real wishes are to be taller, have an adventure, and meet her father. She thinks all three are impossible, especially the last one because she thinks her father is dead. Her mother left them so she and her little brother, Lew, live with their dysfunctional grandmother. She has good days and bad days, and Annie has to take care of a lot of things around the house. There comes a day when everything changes, though, and her father shows up as an escapee from prison and holds them hostage. It sounds like an implausible plot line, but Gewirtz somehow makes it realistic and redemptive. Through long conversations, an understanding comes about, and Annie learns to understand her unorthodox family. I love the symbolism of the black and white forest where Annie's stories come alive. Don't you LOVE the cover?! The audio's narrator is excellent!
    Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
    Allusions galore in this delightful mystery set in a fantastical library! This is definitely a homage to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Mr. Lemoncello playing the part of Willy Wonka, constantly talking in book-speak. Kyle wins an essay contest to spend the night in a lock-in at the new Alexandriaville library with a group of kids. What they didn't bargain for was the fact that they have to find a way OUT of the library by solving puzzles in an elaborate game designed by the ultimate game-maker himself, Mr. Lemoncello. I really enjoyed all the references to children's books, and readers will enjoy trying to solve the puzzles along with the characters.

    Seventeen-year-old Mia is celebrating a snow day with her family, driving along the Oregon road when we suddenly realize she's been in a terrible accident, and she's narrating from outside her broken body. Forman does an amazing job with point of view in this spare novel, telling us back stories through Mia's voice - her dreams of playing cello at Julliard, her romance with Adam, her hippie parents, and beloved little brother, all while she is disembodied, watching the family drama take place in the hospital. She has to decide whether to stay or go. Is facing the tragedy worth the pain, or would it be easier to let go? Watch out - this one is a tear-jerker!  There is a sequel, Where She Went, that I need to read next!
    I like to let you know what my family is reading, too!
    My mom:

     My dad:
    Hobbs and the Kid
    I just brought this home for my husband from the library based on a recommendation from his dad:
    A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II
    My 20-year-old:
    The Source
    Poor thing - she's been so busy this summer, and this book is SO long, it's taken her the whole summer to read it!
    My 17-year-old (summer AP English assignments):
    The Poisonwood Bible Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
    What I'm currently reading:
    A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story
    What I'm currently listening to:
    Don't Go Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

    Professional books I'm working on:

    Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading Unlocking Complex Texts: A Systematic Framework for Building Adolescents' Comprehension

    Unlocking Complex Texts is our professional book club book this quarter, so I will be studying it for awhile.
     If you enjoyed reading my blog, I'd LOVE for you to follow it!  Just scroll down to the bottom right side bar, and you can join it or follow by e-mail.  It would make my day if you did!
    What are YOU reading this week?

    Saturday, August 17, 2013

    A Journey Ahead

    I just read a beautiful 2013 picture book by Aaron Becker.  I was mesmerized by the intricate and amazing illustrations, the pop of red, and the story of imagination, adventure, bravery, kindness, friendship, and the concept of paying it forward.  What a metaphor for the upcoming school year and what I want my classroom to be like!  I'm ready for the journey, and I can't wait to share it with my students!

    My room is ready for my students next week.  The floors are shiny, the bookshelves organized, posters up, and walls ready for student work and anchor charts.  I've chosen several different books to share over the years on the first day, but this year, this is the book.  I want to share Becker's beautiful story and open up dialogue about what kind of journeys the kids want to experience this year.  This conversation and thinking will become their first quick writes in their writing notebooks.  I can't wait to hear and read what they want to accomplish!
    Picture the journey...
    I LOVE my Jon Klassen print above the Ivan shrine and the Platypus Police Squad poster of Readers' Rights from the nErDcampBC swag bag!


    I'm excited to join the #Sharpschu Twitter Book Club in September to talk more about Journey!  Who will join me?  I'll be blogging more next week about what my students and I write on that first day about our school year journeys.

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    Nonfiction Wednesday

    Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more children's nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.
    This week I listened to The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin, read by Mark Bramhall.
    Sheinkin sure can tell a story! Benedict Arnold was a man of dichotomies, and I enjoyed hearing about his accomplishments as well as his failures. He was a terrible politician and met with lots of opposition among the colonial elite, but he was also a war hero, credited by some as one of the reasons we won the American Revolution. Unfortunately, he was ultimately interested in his ego, and when he lost his money and his pride, he decided to gain them both back by spying for England. History buffs will love this book, and anyone who loves narrative nonfiction will be captivated!  When Mom and I visited Parnassus Book Sellers in Nashville over the weekend, I bought a copy for my classroom library.
    I also loved Sheinkin's multi-award winner, Bomb:


    What nonfiction are YOU reading this week?

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Slice of Life - Weekend with Mom

    I've been participating in Slice of Life this summer, started by Two Writing Teachers.  I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
    I will confess I'm not a huge chick lit/romance reader.  Sure, I like to read several of them over the spring break or summer, relaxing by the pool, but not as my steady book diet.  However, when I saw the Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat Weekend in Nashville advertised, I thought it seemed like a perfect getaway for Mom and me.  I hadn't even read Debbie Macomber before now!  But how could we pass up a weekend at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Resort in Music City, USA?  It even included a free book, her follow-up in the Rose Harbor series.  As soon as we booked, I started listening to the first in the series and really enjoyed it.
    The Inn at Rose Harbor (Rose Harbor #1)  Rose Harbor in Bloom (Rose Harbor #2)

    We got there Friday evening and started the weekend off by visiting Ann Patchett's independent bookstore, Parnassus Books.  We've made a new goal to visit as many independent bookstores as we can whenever we're traveling.  We both love Ann Patchett's books, and had read about the success of the store, so we were excited to see it! 

    Cute bookstore dog!

    I bought three books there:
    The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Origami Yoda #4) Whistling Past the Graveyard The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
    After arriving and settling in at Opryland Hotel, we ate pizza at an Italian eatery.  It's SUCH a gorgeous hotel!  If you've never been there, you need to put it on your list as a must-see destination!

    We then decided to head on down to the Friday night festivities for the fan retreat, not really knowing what to expect.  Oh my!  We were in for a TREAT!  Loud music and a pink glow were emanating from the conference room.  We got our free goody bag from the Random House folks and headed in to find an amazing display of desserts, open bar, and fantastic cover band!!  Debbie was mingling with the crowd, posing for picture after picture with her sweet smile.

    Her family was SO fun and amazing!

    Debbie and her husband, Wayne, had a great time dancing!

    We all did!
    Saturday brought a delicious breakfast, a bus tour of Nashville sites, lunch, a tea party with Debbie (she answered questions and told hilarious stories), and an amazing buffet dinner and sock hop with an Elvis impersonator, D.J., another open bar, and more dancing!  Knitters had the opportunity to take knitting lessons with Nicky Epstein and get her book signed.  Debbie is the official spokesperson for World Vision's Knit for Kids, so lots of people were knitting caps, sweaters, and blankets for children living in poverty.


    Those are cat-eye glasses for the sock hop. ;-)

    On Sunday, we enjoyed an inspirational talk with Guideposts editor, Rick Hamlin (who we found out can DANCE!).  They talked about their writing, personal, and spiritual lives.  We sang "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace," and left feeling like we experienced a very special weekend. 

    Unfortunately, they ran out of Rick's book, 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without, but we're a fan of his, now, so we'll buy it later.  He's so personable, funny, and real.
    THANK YOU so much, Random House and Debbie Macomber, for hosting an amazing fan retreat!  Mom and I spent a special weekend together, and those memories will last a lifetime.  Everyone was so friendly - we had a great time talking with other fans, the hard-working people from Random House, and Debbie and her family.  We hope you host another one next year.  In the meantime, I'll be reading more of Debbie's books!!
    We weren't QUITE ready to be done with the weekend, though, and neither of us had seen The Hermitage, so we decided to visit there since it was only minutes away.


    I'm blessed to have a mom who is also a best friend!  As this summer comes to an end, I reflect back upon all the amazing experiences I've had - nErDcampBC, Niagara-on-the-Lake with my best girlfriends, Las Vegas with my wonderful husband, Norris Lake with my whole family, the Choice Literacy Retreat and Franki Sibberson's online literacy tech course, and Laura Robb workshop. What an incredible 76 days!   It's almost time to go back to school, and as much as I loved summer, I'm ready to make more memories with my students and colleagues!!  Goodbye Summer of 2013!