Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday and the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
Because of the ALA Youth Media Awards yesterday, my nonfiction book this week is The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius because it was the only Sibert award winner I hadn't read.  I ran to the library after school Monday to get it.  I'm so glad it was there!
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius
  George E. Ohr was indeed an eccentric genius. I love how he held on to his imaginative artistic ideals even in the face of the Industrial Revolution. The photographs throughout of him and his handlebar mustache and his beautiful pottery are wonderful. This is an excellent addition to a classroom library. I'm also going to lend it out to my potter friend, Karan Witham-Walsh!
Nonfiction at the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards
     Because of Alyson Beecher and her nonfiction challenges and link ups, I've read a lot more nonfiction than I used to.  It makes watching the Youth Media Awards even more fun!  Now I've read all the Sibert Award winners!  Here are the winners with my original Goodreads comments.
Parrots Over Puerto Rico
The unique design of this book (written to be read vertically instead of horizontally), the parallel stories of the history of Puerto Rico and the plight of the Puerto Rican parrots, and its paper-and-fabric collage illustrations make this a must-read and great addition to the classroom library!
Oooh, this one could definitely be a Caldecott contender (I was so right!). I love the illustrations and sepia tones with pops of blue and red, the creative text styles, word play, and the story of how the transcontinental railroad changed the country. I'm definitely buying Locomotive for my classroom library (and I did)!
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. (I had won this book, signed by both Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet - yay!)

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
I LOVED this book! I am a bird geek, and I spent many hours as a child drawing birds (why did I stop?) and raising chickens and ducks. I still love watching birds come to the feeders, especially on a snowy day like today. This book reminded me about why I love them so much! It's a very "busy" book - lots of information, drawing tips, even comics and humor. It wouldn't necessarily make a good read aloud (at least not the WHOLE thing - maybe a little at a time projected on a screen), but I can see my students pouring over it again and again. I'm definitely purchasing it for my classroom, and maybe it will inspire me to get my colored pencils out again (and it did - my daughter gave me a set of pencils and blank journals for my birthday because of this book).
It's good to know I gave all of them 5 stars when I originally wrote about them on Goodreads. :-)
Congratulations to all the wonderful writers and illustrators of these amazing books!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slice of Life - Youth Media Awards Excitement

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
The day all children's nerdy book lovers look forward to all year happened yesterday: 

I say I look forward to it all year because my Mock Newbery Club starts meeting early - in February, and we start reading new books right away, talk about the characteristics of award winners, and begin making predictions.  We meet over the summer at our local library to continue the conversations, and reconvene in the fall.  In December we make our predictions and talk about our favorites.  Then we anxiously await the announcements.  I usually do a short Mock Caldecott unit, also, in November or December.  My students know I love picture books, and they do, too, so we choose our favorites for that.  They knew that Journey was my pick for the Caldecott. 
Mock Newbery Club  Favorite
Mock Newbery Club's Honor Picks
Other Mock Newbery Club Favorites
   The Water Castle Doll Bones
 Paperboy The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp The Boy On The Porch
  PRINTZ HONOR                                                                           HONOR YALSA
Favorites for Caldecott
                                      HONOR               HONOR
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild Journey Flora and the Flamingo Hank Finds an Egg The Story of Fish and Snail The Day the Crayons Quit
Favorites for Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
              HONOR       HONOR FOR
                                 SIBERT, CALDECOTT
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard Locomotive Paul Thurlby's Wildlife Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest--and Most Surprising--Animals on Earth
Favorite for YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers
We did pretty well predicting!!  We started talking as soon as school started!  I have 5th grade locker bay duty, so kids gathered around at 8:30 am and excitedly chatted about the awards and what might win.  (One student also told me she had had a dream about me Sunday night that I was married to Justin Bieber!  Ha!)  Then the big moment was revealed, and I tried to get it all on video.  Of course, my iPhone filled up and the recording was cut off in one class, but I got some good moments (one class watched it live, but the other class watched a recording):
Such excitement!  There were a few disappointments for some kids, though, because your heart gets so set on your favorite that when it doesn't win, there's a moment of sadness.  But that's okay because it just shows how much books mean to these kids!  I had that moment when Journey didn't win the top prize, but Locomotive is absolutely deserved of it, and I was happy for Brian Floca.  I was very happy for Aaron Becker that Journey won an Honor, though, and I know the committee does the best job possible!  Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is such a sweet book.  Interesting that two of the Honors books were wordless.  I loved that my students and I had read so many of the winners!  Lots of us loved Flora and Ulysses, and how perfect was it that our new Ambassador of Children's Literature, Kate DiCamillo won the top award!!  Lots of us loved Doll Bones by Holly Black and Paperboy by Vince Vawter, too!  I'll write more about the Sibert winners tomorrow on my Nonfiction Wednesday post.  I wrote about Flora and Ulysses on a Celebration Saturday post not too long ago:
We celebrated Kate DiCamillo at our Mock Newbery Club meeting this week because I finished Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures and LOVED it!  After book talking it, we watched this video and all enjoyed it:
I also wrote about it in a It's Monday! What Are You Reading?  post:
"Holy bagumba!" I loved this book! Kate DiCamillo is a magician with words and stories. I love how she combines fantasy, friendship, and quirkiness in all her books to make unforgettable characters. This one involves a squirrel who gains superhero powers after being sucked into the Ulysses 2000X vacuum cleaner (weird, I know, but somehow this story element works) and captures the heart of Flora who names him Ulysses, of course. He is a poet and valiant friend, keeping Flora company in her self-professed cynical world. Flora's mother is a romance writer who seems more attached to her tacky lamp than Flora, and William Spiver is the temporarily blinded nephew of the lovable neighbor, Tootie. Flora's parents are divorced, thus her cynicism, but she still believes in superheroes and becomes Ulysses's mentor, giving him his "wings." Even though this book seems suitable for younger elementary kids, it is not for the faint of heart - lots of incredibly challenging vocabulary words are imbedded into life philosophies and sophisticated themes. Here's a smattering of some of the words: malfeasance, vanquish, eradicate, obfuscation, nefarious, euphemism, unremitting - see what I mean? I loved the ending and can't wait to share this with my Mock Newbery Club. Will they like it? I hope so! I feel about Kate's books the way Flora feels about Ulysses when he flies: "It was as if some small peace descended.  The world became dreamy, beautiful, slow."
And yes, my Mock Newbery Club loved it! :-)
I hung up my personalized "The Journey Never Ends" print in my classroom, but first I snapped a picture:
 I am blessed to live out my passion for books and writing in my chosen vocation every day with these kiddos who share my passion.  Congratulations to all the award winners!  Thank you for doing what you do. 
Here's to 2013 books! 
Now for 2014.  Let the reading begin!  Our 2015 Mock Newbery Club meets for the first time on February 3rd.  The journey never ends!!
There was an NPR segment today on the winners:
Full list of Award Winners:

Monday, January 27, 2014

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. 
Not only is it #IMWAYR day, but it's Youth Media Awards Day!  Woohoo!  I'm writing this Sunday night, and we're supposed to get snow, so I don't know if I will be watching it with my students or at home.  It's MUCH more fun with students because they have their favorites, too, and will be excited for the winners, but either way, I'm watching it!   Good luck to all the wonderful writers and illustrators of young people's literature who wrote books in 2013.  I can't imagine life without your art and am so grateful for how your books make my life and the life of kids, teachers, and kidlit fans better and richer.  Thank you!  I love what Jarrett Krosoczka said on Facebook Sunday:
    There is anxiety across the land tonight ahead of the big Newbery / Caldecott announcements tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, we'll all continue to do what we do best-create & connect kids to great children's literature.
      Books I read last week:
     Please Bring Balloons
    Jen Vincent featured this on a "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" post, and I loved the cover, so I found it at the bookstore. The art is beautiful, and I enjoyed the adventurous story of a girl who finds a note rucked under the saddle of a polar bear on the carousel. The note asks for some balloons, and after she finds enough, he takes off with her on his back. He brings her back before bedtime, and the next day, she thinks she dreamed the whole thing. The ending brings a great surprise.
    The Museum

    I could completely relate to the little girl in this book. I love museums, and the illustrations showed how art can inspire you. Students can have fun learning about the famous pieces in the book. It's fitting that the adult book on this post is about a museum, too, and the importance of art.
    Rose Under Fire
    2013-book, audio-book, character-who-writes, friendship, historical-fiction, holocaust, mock-printz-2014, poetrystory-within-a-story, strong-girl-character, survival, symbolism, war

    CAUTION: These videos are about the women's concentration camp featured in Rose Under Fire and the Nuremburg trials, also written about in the novel. They contain disturbing footage and is not suitable for young children to watch.


    The character Rose Justice is amazing. Not only is she a daring American ATA pilot and poet, but she is a survivor. I really loved Code Name Verity, so I was looking forward to reading this companion.  What amazes me is that Elizabeth Wein can not only write this compelling story, but she includes Rose's beautiful poetry, which of course, she wrote, too. This book would make a great addition to jr. high and high school libraries, along with Code Name Verity. Students who are interested in WWII and the Holocaust will be drawn towards both and learn more about the role women played in the war.


    The Goldfinch

     There is SO much to this epic book, not only because of its monster length - 770 pages and dense - but because the story is so outrageous, sad, disturbing, and full of life, dysfunction, and pain. With all its heaviness, there are also humorous parts, and I have to say Boris must be one of the best characters in literature that I've read in a while! I love the idea of the painting carrying the thread of the story in all its symbolism, and as hopeless as Theo Decker is, you root for him all the way to the end. I loved Hobie, too. Tartt is an incredibly talented writer. She does so many amazing things with craft in this book. The settings are brilliant - characters in themselves - New York, Las Vegas, Amsterdam. Of course, now I want to see the painting. I've been to the Frick, but I don't remember seeing it. I didn't have a connection to it at the time, though. Most of the art I remember seeing and loving, I connected to it because of reading about it! Our book club about this book is Monday night, so I'm looking forward to hashing this out with everyone.

     Seven Stories Up

         (Almost done with Anne)
    The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)

    My family loves to read too!

    Katie (17)

    Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

    Libby (20)

    East of Eden

    My husband

    Act of Treason (Mitch Rapp, #9)

    My dad

    The Graves at Seven Devils

    My mom

    The Woman Upstairs

    What are YOU reading this week?