Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Slice of Life - Trying Out Mentor Texts

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

  I'm planning on using lots of mentor texts to give my students models for writing their Slices of Life this year.  We're going to try out lots of ideas. Yesterday, I read My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray,  and we picked out various craft choices - circular structure, repetitive phrases, followed the seasons, hyphenated adjectives and verbs.  Students can try all of the craft choices, a few, or even change them up a bit to fit the person they're writing about and the tone they want.


I got as far as spring this week.  I'm going to work on the rest for next Tuesday.

My Dad Has a Country Heart

My dad has a country heart
and he shared that heart with me.

With lanky legs and strong hands
worn blue jeans
and a carton of cigarettes
rolled up in a sleeve
like James Dean
he'd grin and say:
"We've got to
get outside
and do a little work.
There are horses
to feed
fish to be caught
and ducks to be brought in.
Let's go!"
And so we did.

When spring came along
and the ice turned to mud
and forsythia started blooming
at the end of the lane
it was time to go
to the Mt. Healthy Hatchery
to pick up a dozen
or ducklings.

We'd hop in
the truck and zoom-vroom
on over there
me excited
my brain zip-zapping
about what little treasures
we'd bring home
for the fair season.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the kids write!

Monday, September 28, 2015

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 Wonderful Things You Will Be

I loved this sweet book narrated by parents who are dreaming big dreams for their children. Dreams of being kind, generous, creative, caring, brave, clever, and bold. "And then I'll look at you and you'll look at me and I'll love you, whoever you've grown up to be." Great baby gift!
Tad and Dad
Tad and Dad by David Ezra Stein
At first I thought this was going to be a bedtime story you would use to help kids sleep on their own, in their own bed, becoming more independent. However, it ended up that even Dad couldn't sleep without his son and got lonely without him. Hmmmm. It's cute, though. The way the son looks up to and adores his dad is sweet - "He sings in a loud BUUUUURRRRP that echoes across the pond. And I love him."  Entertaining illustrations, but if you want your child to sleep on his own, choose another book. ;-)
The Day the Crayons Came Home
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
I liked this one even better than the first! Funny, clever, and great to use for point of view, character, and personification lessons. Little kids will love the glow in the dark pages! This one needs multiple read throughs to appreciate all the humor and nuances. 


Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

My fifth grade students loved Rump so much that when Jack came out, they begged me to read it aloud, too. I actually started it at the end of last school year, but we didn't finish it. I get my students for two years, so when this year started, they wanted me to pick it back up and finish it. We really enjoyed it. They loved how Shurtliff connected the two stories, and they had fun picking out all the allusions to other fairy tales. Now we're ready for Red!
A Night Divided
This was a fascinating look at what happened to families when the Berlin Wall went up - literally overnight. Gerta's family was divided - she, one of her brothers, and her mother in the East, and her father and other brother in the West. When Gerta spots her father on the other side of the wall one day, she interprets a silly dance he does as a signal to dig. Despite mortal danger, risks of being betrayed by neighbors and friends, and the possibility she could be risking her family's lives, she follows her father's directives. Her desire for freedom and to reunite her family sparks courage she didn't know she had. I was reading this at the same time as listening to the audio of The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. Both stories make me realize how blessed we are to live in a free, democratic country. I hope I never take it for granted!
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Malala's story really is incredible. Her family is amazing, too.  My 6th graders are reading about her and watched her Nobel Peace Prize speech.  She is inspirational, courageous, and teaches us all about how life can be lived to not only be the best version of yourself, but to work tirelessly for the downtrodden, disadvantaged, and maligned.  
 A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I LOVED this book! I listened to the audio, which featured a perfect narrator. Ove is a curmudgeonly man, missing his beloved wife who was the only one who understood him. He never expected for her to go first. That was not the plan. He proceeds to plan various failed attempts at suicide, each attempt foiled by exasperating neighbors. As a cat and the neighbors weave their way into his heart, you learn that Ove is not just a grumpy old man. Beware of finishing the audio in your car - bring along tissues! This story brought to mind Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

DigiLit Sunday - Hashtags and Central Ideas


I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.

     We're reading and writing around the theme topic SOCIAL INJUSTICE now in my 6th grade class.  A Long Walk to Water is our read aloud, and students chose from the following books to read in small groups:  Bamboo People, Words in the Dust, Esperanza Rising, Shooting Kabul, Boys Without Names, and Diamonds in the Desert.  They are also reading and watching short texts.  One of the things I asked them to do for homework last week on Google Classroom was to watch Malala's Nobel Peace Prize Speech after reading an article in Scope Magazine on her in class.  Because it was a long speech, I didn't want to assign anything lengthy for a written response.  However, I wanted them to capture her main points and respond to them. 
     When I watched it while preparing for the assignment, I noticed there was the hashtag "THE LAST" at the bottom right of the screen.   My students use hashtags all the time in their social media.  Why not capitalize on that phenomenon - after all, it's a summary/main idea, isn't it?  Therefore, I asked them to comment after watching by coming up with a new hashtag that would summarize her main ideas and support it with evidence from the video.  I think they did a great job capturing the spirit of her message:
#SpeakOut I chose this because she says in her speech that "young girls like me need to use their voice and freedom to help others." She also said in her speech that " We need girls to be educated and smart to help them speak out against injustice."  - Daniel
The hashtag that I would use to describe this speech is #LetUsBeginThisEndingNow because in Malala's speech, she states as the conclusion "Let us begin this ending now!" I have found that the conclusion of almost every piece of text is the most powerful sentence(s) in the entire speech, article, etc. And her speech is no different. She uses words such as 'begin' and 'ending' in that last sentence. These are usually opposites, but she puts them together to create this powerful ending. It leaves you wanting to help make a change and take a stand, so that no one should ever be forced to be silenced again. Also, Malala says "Let us begin this ending now!" more than once, so she is clearly wanting you to remember that set of words, in hopes that you will rise and create a better future for all of the women, children, and even some men in these developing countries, everywhere.  - Jaidyn
I think another hashtag would be #listentothetroubled . I think this because in her speech she says "It is for those forgotten children, who want education. It is for those frightened children, who want peace. It is for those voiceless children, who want change. I am here, to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice." and than I feel that these few sentences are powerful, and it draws peoples attention to those millions of troubled children, and to listen to the problem at hand. Malala speaks for these children, and even dedicates her award to them. The powerful rulers who were there, can hear them out, and it is them, who will make the big difference.  - Lily
#WHYISIT because the speech says, " Why is it, that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?" And, " Why is it that building tanks is so easy but, building schools is so hard?" I chose #WHYITIS because Malala, and everyone else want to know, why is it?  - Megan
#TheBrave - I chose #TheBrave for a hashtag because Malala is so brave for standing up to Taliban even after getting shot. She said that it only made her braver. She also said, "I do not only speak for myself. I speak for the 66 million girls who do not have a right to education." I think that makes her so brave because she also said, "I had two choices. One was to stay silent and wait to get killed. The second was to speak up and get killed. I chose the second one." That makes her so brave, risking her life to stand up for what she believes in, to try and get children a right to education, especially girls. - Olivia
#THEFIRST is the hashtag I would use. In her speech, Malala says, "In fact, I am very proud to be the first Pashtoon, the first Pakistani, and the youngest person to receive this award." Later in the video, Malala states, "It has become the first generation that decides to be the last to see empty classrooms, lost child hopes, and wasted potentials." I also think that education is finally changing and more children are being provided with better education. But more than that, I think that Malala is the first to be brave enough to stand up for her rights against an imposing group like the Taliban. - William
I love how they were different from each other, but they all got the central idea, were able to support it with direct evident, and most of them added their own explanation/response. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Patience

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme is PATIENCE.
     Several days ago I was feeling it - the heart palpitations, the headache, the anxiety, and the short temper.  My patience was quickly dissipating.  I was going to snap at a student any moment.  THE student - you know the one.  The one that tests your patience. 
     After I took a deep breath and briefly closed my eyes, I regained my composure.  I tried to practice patience.  I knew it wasn't entirely her fault.  I was trying to fit too much into the class period.  I only have an hour with my fifth graders, and that's never enough.  I teach gifted students.  You might think that means I can go faster.  In some material, that's true.  But most of the time, at least in the subject I teach (language arts), it doesn't.  It DOES mean I can go deeper, but to allow that to happen to the extent that it should, I need to slow down.  But there's SO much to teach! 
     The topic, PATIENCE, came to me that day.  I knew I had chosen this topic before - about a year ago, in fact.  Right at the beginning of the school year.  I'm sure that's not a coincidence, even though that post was more about practicing patience with life events that were happening.  I also wrote about stress and slowing down not too long ago - both related to teaching.  I've written about waiting.  These topics are chosen partly because I need a lot of self-talk and prayer about this - to SLOW DOWN.  I know what my students need.  They need time to talk, to process, to daydream, to read, to write, to connect, to think.  They can't do those things when I'm rushing them along, trying to get to all the content.  I know my students and I are both happier when I give them the time they need.  The content will come.  I will get to it.  It's only September.  They're only 10. Right now it's so much more important to treat each child with respect, love, and PATIENCE. 
     It occurs to me that we have a perfect role model when it comes to patience.  God is so patient with us.  We mess up again and again.  We have things the Holy Spirit is nudging us to improve, forgive, get rid of, or do.  We're slow.  We're distracted.  We're stubborn.  We're proud.  We don't respond quick enough, I'm sure.  But He's waiting.  He's patient.  He allows us to choose.  He reminds us.  He nudges us.  He directs us.  He allows us time to figure it out.  I know there's limited time, and we can't take forever, but we have the perfect example of patience; there He is.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Slice of Life - Where I'm From

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

     It's been awhile since I used George Ella Lyon's beautiful poem, "Where I'm From", as a mentor text for my students.  My 6th graders are poetry fans, so I decided to pull it out again and share it with them.  To refresh my lesson ideas, I went to her website (click links above) and took a look at the background story of the poem and the poem itself.  I loved the videos she had included and decided that's how I would update the lesson, so I renewed my 6th graders' Animoto educational accounts.  I really enjoyed the final products.  I had some parents tell me at conferences last week that the videos made them teary-eyed.  That's the power of a poem!

     First, I made one myself so I could show the kids what the poem looked like in text and in video.  We talked about the "Where I'm From" template (there are templates available online), but I stressed that Lyon's poem and the template are guides - they didn't have to follow the pattern exactly.  We also talked about tone/mood, the music that would accompany the videos, and the themes they chose.  Mine was nostalgic, but theirs could be funny, lighthearted, or any other tone they wanted.  Here are a few of the results:

This was a great project for the beginning of the year, but it would also make a good one for a memoir unit later.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DigiLit Sunday - #TheEdCollabGathering


I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
     Here was the view from where I sat yesterday morning - a cup of steaming fresh coffee at my fingertips, my double computer screens (when my husband first bought the second monitor, I thought he was crazy; obviously, I figured out why it's a great thing!) - one showing Christopher Lehman's live introduction to the day's #EdCollabGathering schedule, and the other with TweetDeck.  In front of me, I had an Evernote notebook open, ready to capture photos and learning from the sessions I chose.  What you don't see is that I was still in my PJs!  FREE PD in your PJs....awesome.  Mornings like these are when I think technology totally rocks. 
     After Chris's introduction, we were treated with Penny Kittle's keynote. After she concluded her address, Chris said he was teary.  I ALWAYS get teary after listening to Penny, so I could completely relate. 
After the keynote, you could choose from several 11:00 AM sessions.  I was interested in the Flipped Classroom session by Markette Pierce, so I tuned in there.  Here is her session.  Lots of great thinking!  It was also fun to see some of my tweets get recognized during her video. ;-)
 You can see my tweets here.  Big takeaways were:  start small, rethink flipping as just videos, after a flipped activity, devote about 10 min. the next day for Q&A, be willing to make mistakes, find collaborators (thanks, Andrea!), and don't let missed homework stop you - treat it like you would any missed homework.
I haven't watched any other sessions yet, but I plan to go back and watch Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass's session on Digital Reading, Tracy Ludwig and Joellen McCarthy's session on Writing for Empathy, and the Closing Session by Kristi Mraz and Christine Hertz.  I also need to go back to last year's Gathering because I didn't see it.
In case you missed this fabulous opportunity for virtual professional development, it's all archived on their YouTube channel, here.  Also, check out Penny's Book Love Foundation, the chosen charity of the morning.  Thank you to all the expert educators at The Educator Collaborative for sharing your knowledge and time with us!!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Church

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme is CHURCH.
Christmas Eve
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the  apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being  the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
  I chose this week's topic after spending Sunday morning at my church, marveling at the way its servants come together and use their spiritual gifts to serve God and each other - not just on Sundays, but daily.  One of the reasons I chose Lebanon Presbyterian Church is because I felt the Holy Spirit there.  It's a place where I feel uplifted, empowered, and comforted. 
I'm part of the Adult Education Committee, and Sunday was our 7th annual LPC Fall Kick-Off Breakfast.  We introduce our fall classes and opportunities while serving pancakes, fruit, sausage, bacon, orange juice, and coffee.  It's amazing to me how it comes together every year - a little like the loaves and fishes story!  I only play a tiny part - Nina, our amazing leader, shops for the food, organizes all the helpers, and assists with every part of the event.  Church members volunteer to set up the tables and chairs the day before, wrap silverware, cut up fruit, set the tables, cook the food (starting bright and early that morning), and set up and brew the coffee.  Then our youth pastor and youth groups come about an hour before the breakfast  and set out syrup, butter, and the silverware wrapped in napkins, pour orange juice and milk, and line up in the kitchen to carry plates of food out to about 250 hungry church members and visitors - all while smiling and having fun.  While everyone is eating, teachers and facilitators of fall classes come to the stage and talk about their classes while Lee expertly emcees the event.  Everything is whisked away and cleaned up before the service starts an hour and 15 minutes later,  complete with beautiful contemporary music (1st service is traditional), a sermon on how Jesus sees women, and prayer.  Astounding.
The church body was fed spiritually and physically Sunday morning.  This event is only one of many great outreaches that are hosted and sponsored by our church.  How blessed we are to live in a country where we can worship freely and come together in His name.  LPC's mission statement is "Loving People to Christ" - I'm thankful to be a part of it!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nonfiction Wednesday

  Join Alyson and others at Kid Lit Frenzy for a nonfiction picture book bonanza each week!
A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups
I worked for a principal who had a poster hanging on his office wall with a list of the names of animal groups. I loved it and always wanted one just like it. This is even better! A book, beautifully illustrated with interesting textures and materials, about animal groups and their behaviors. I love how some of the names of groups fit perfectly with the animals such as a flamboyance of Flamingos and an ostentation of peacocks. Wonderful! I can see students going crazy over researching more collective nouns. Great mentor text for the writing and reading workshop. Can't wait to share it with my class.

The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea
Ooh - I can see all the possibilities of this book in the classroom - a model for writing a creative/literary nonfiction text using first person point of view, a springboard for writing an argument paper by choosing which one you think really is the most amazing creature in the sea, and as a mentor text for researching other habitats and writing a similar picture book with the findings. The illustrations are awesome.
 Fascinating video that could assist in your students' research.

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs
"It's starting. They're arriving." This is an interesting book about the arrival of horseshoe crabs and shorebirds at Delaware Bay in the late spring - the horseshoe crabs to spawn and the shorebirds to rest in their migration and feed on the eggs of the crabs. It's fascinating to see how relationships like this happen in nature. I loved the illustrations - the muted colors, the diversity of the people coming to watch all this happen, and the beauty of the birds and interesting features of the horseshoe crabs.
Bird & Diz
Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young
The format of this biography about jazz legends Charlie "Bird" Parker and John "Dizzy" Gillespie is interesting. It confused me for a minute trying to figure out how to read it. I don't know if kids would like that or not. It's different. I enjoyed how Ed Young's illustrations captured the energy and vibrancy of jazz - the blues, pinks, purples, greens, and browns adding to the tone of excitement. I liked the figurative language, too - "tossing notes back and forth like jugglers" and "He points his trumpet and shoots out fireworks." Good introduction to jazz and a couple of jazz greats.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Slice of Life - Growing Up in the 70s

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
Me in a striped polyester tee and short shorts and knee socks in 1977 (those are ducklings in front of me).  I was eleven.

I read Jennifer and Matthew Holm's graphic novel, Sunny Side Up, a couple weeks ago. I included it in my #IMWAYR post last Monday.  I loved the book and its expert way of dealing with a difficult family crisis, but another aspect that stuck with me is its setting.  It took place in the 1970s.  Oh, the nostalgia!  The hide-a-bed, Dorothy Hamill wedge, "Gee, your hair smells terrific" campaign, the macramé toilet paper roll cover,  the Station Wagon, the Bicentennial, the avocado green landline phone, and on and on.  It started bringing back all my 70s memories:

- TV shows - Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, MASH, I Dream of Jeanie, The Waltons, All in the Family, Hee Haw, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, Good Times, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Welcome Back Kotter, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Sesame Street, The Incredible Hulk, Bewitched, The Rockford Files, Laverne & Shirley, Charlie's Angels, Captain Kangaroo, Sanford & Son, Fantasy Island, Adam-12, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Jeffersons, Donny & Marie, The Flip Wilson ShowMork and Mindy and more!

- Movies - Star Wars, Grease, Rocky, Jaws, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever

- Pop Stars -  Donny & Marie Osmond, the Bee Gees (especially Andy Gibb), Sean Cassidy, Olivia Newton-John (and I remember my mom had a Barry Manilow album)

- Rock Stars - Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Boston, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Queen, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Billy Joel - all music I didn't start listening to until the late 70s and 80s when I was in junior high and high school

- Disco music!

- Songs - American Pie and Forever in Blue Jeans were my first 45s.

- Fashion - I remember my mom was into Stretch & Sew patterns in the 70s.  I wanted bell bottoms!  Lots of polyester.

- Cars - the cars of my childhood included a Chevrolet El Camino, a Chevette, Ford Cherokee

- Décor - shag carpeting, and colors like avocado and orange.  I remember the microwave and air conditioning units making their debuts.

- Politics - Richard Nixon resigning because of Watergate

- The Bicentennial

- Books and authors I read - Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, The Dark is Rising series, The Black Stallion series, A Wrinkle in Time, the James Harriot, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books

If you grew up during the 70s, what are some of your memories?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DigiLit Sunday - Update on Flipping the ELA Classroom

I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a DigiLit Sunday post about flipping the ELA classroom.  I've been trying it out - both the kids and I are working out the glitches week by week.  I think we've got it to the point where it can be an effective way to save time and increase student achievement.  I'm still trying to determine the best method of keeping kids accountable and measuring its success, but I'm having fun figuring it out.  I think the kids are, too! 
When I make a mini-lesson video, I post it on my Google Classroom page, sometimes along with other materials like a handout, photo, another video by someone else, or even an audio clip (I did this with a "Where I'm From" poetry mini-lesson - I attached an audio clip of George Ella Lyon reading her own poem). I'm experimenting with entry tickets, student comments on Google Classroom, and other ways to make sure students "got it" after the lesson.  I could create a Padlet for responses or questions, too.

Right now, I'm using YouTube Capture to record my videos.  The app uploads it to YouTube when you're done editing the video.  Here is a video I did on sentence collecting - one of the first things I ask my fifth graders to do when reading their small group book around the theme topic, empathy.  It's the longest one I've done - most of them have been about 10 minutes.  You see my YouTube page here.

My colleague, Andrea Nichols, is also experimenting with this concept and has uploaded several YouTube videos for her high school students.  Here is one she's done:


We both have YouTube pages, so feel free to take a look at other videos we've uploaded.  I'd love to hear about any ideas you might have, too, if you are flipping the classroom!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritual Journey Thursday - Freedom

     I look forward to Thursdays when I can publish thoughts on my spiritual journey and hear the thoughts of others on a weekly theme topic.  It has become a space for an encouraging and fortifying community to come together.  We welcome anyone who would like to join us!
This week's theme is FREEDOM.
     This post was inspired by two books I'm immersed in right now.  I'm listening to the audio of I Am Malala by  Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, and I'm reading A Night Divided by Jennifer Neilsen
     I'm struck by the real life story of Malala and her experiences under the tyranny of the Taliban, and the fictional story of Gerta under the Soviet regime, her family divided by the Berlin Wall.  The people in both stories put their lives and their family's lives on the line to fight for freedom - freedom to worship, learn, and speak.  We can freely attend church, go to school, assemble when we want to, vote, speak out, and travel.  We have plenty to eat, we're mostly safe, we can make career and family decisions, and can read and write about subjects of our choice.
     I pray that I never take that freedom for granted.  I pray they are never taken away.  I pray that if my freedoms were infringed upon I could stand up and speak out.  God created us to be free, to have the ability to choose, and to be unique and special.  May each of us use our gifts to contribute to the world in a positive and productive way!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  - Galatians 5:1

Freedom's Plow - Poem by Langston Hughes

When a man starts out with nothing,
When a man starts out with his hands
Empty, but clean,
When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.

First in the heart is the dream-
Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world,
On the great wooded world,
On the rich soil of the world,
On the rivers of the world.

To read the rest, click here.



Monday, September 7, 2015

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 Grasshopper & the Ants

Jerry Pinkney's art is just amazing in this retelling of a popular fable. The detail, colors, and beauty of the illustrations in this book could keep you gazing, wondering, and appreciating for a long time. I especially loved the changing of the seasons. Pinkney decides to add a bonus moral to this traditional tale - Generously share your bounty. I'd be interested in what kids think of this ending.
 Wherever You Go


This picture book will join Aaron Becker's JOURNEY when I start my JOURNEY unit in January. It is also a perfect one for my HOME/FAMILY unit. I love the expressions of wonder and joy on the rabbit's face, the owl in the bike basket, all the places they see and weather/seasons they experience, and the sentiments of the verses. Sweet!
I Don't Want to Be a Frog

So cute! I love the funny illustrations. Kids will enjoy the exchange between an unhappy frog child and his bespectacled dad - the child wanting to be anything else but a slimy, wet, bug-eating frog, and the dad's patient but slightly exasperated explanations of why he can't be anything else but a frog. Finally, the wolf is the one to convince him it's not so bad to be who he is!
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

What a clever idea for a book! Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall brilliantly follow 4 different parents and children through different eras and places, making the same dessert - a blackberry fool. You see the progression of technology, culture, families, homes, etc. I love that both the author and illustrator chose to include a slave family toward the beginning to show the reality of the 1800s and a father/son duo in a multicultural family at the end to show how inclusive our culture has become. The various places are interesting, too. One thing that doesn't change is the shared, loving experience of making something delicious and enjoying it with family and friends.  There is a recipe for blackberry fool in the back, and wonderful notes from the author and illustrator. This is one of my favorite picture books of the year!
The Allegra Biscotti Collection  (The Allegra Biscotti Collection, #1)
art, character-motivation, creativity, fashion, friendship, intermediate-kids-bookyoung-adult-book

I bought this book because I found out one of my fifth graders liked sketching fashion designs. I tweeted out to the #nerdybookclub folks to see if anyone knew of titles with characters who liked fashion, and Gary Anderson tweeted back with this. I thought it was entertaining, funny, and a great title to recommend to my student. It reminded me a lot of All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, another book I'm going to recommend to this girl because she also likes to cook! This story intrigued me enough to want to read more of the series.

Sunny Side Up


Wow. Jennifer and Matt Holm have tackled a very important issue in graphic novel format - substance abuse. It's also about the complicated relationships of siblings, a grandfather's love and support, honesty, secret-keeping, parents' decisions when a family crisis occurs, and ultimately, a testimony to how important it is for a family to see the truth and deal with it compassionately. There is so much to appreciate in the book - the strong sense of setting (since I grew up in the 70s, I loved the time period AND my parents and in-laws live in retirement communities in Florida, so I could fully relate to that), the story structure with flashbacks, the comic books, the friendship that developed between Sunny and her comic-loving Cuban-American friend, the alligator, the search for lost things (the frames on page 158 broke my heart), the references to the Bicentennial, the Pompeii metaphor, and the long-awaited trip to Disney World. I also appreciated the ambiguity of the ending - will her brother be okay? The more I think and write about this book, the more I realize how well done it is. I will be very interested in what my students say about it.
I wrote, too, about THE YARN, a podcast series with Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker, in this post.  The first season is all about Sunny Side Up and includes a must-listen interview with both Jen and Matt talking about how this story was born.