Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Hopeful Moment

Positive experience in class today: While reading Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar (one of the best read-aloud series EVER btw), a student shared aloud her prediction that at the end of the chapter, Miss Mush's nasty potato salad would make two best friends - both boys - kiss. In a previous chapter, Miss Mush's "mushroom surprise" made a student kiss his teacher, Mrs. Jewls. Her prediction was rooted in the text and made logical sense to her - and the class. Not one fellow classmate made eww sounds, seemed offended, or said, "Gross!" They took her prediction as entirely plausible and treated it like every other prediction that was shared. I loved this moment. While some adults - religiously conservative and the like - continue to fervently hold on to their homophobia and prejudice against GLBTQ people, our youth seems much more matured on the subject. It's kind of like they're saying, "And? What's the big deal?" They see gay and lesbian families in their neighborhood, and have GLBTQ relatives, friends, and community members. A few years ago, a student comment such as this would've been received much more negatively. I was proud of my students today and proud of how far we've come. Of course, there are many miles left to travel. But authors like Jo Knowles (See You at Harry's) and Tim Federle (Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate!) - amongst many others - are helping our kids learn to respect and appreciate diversity through reading. For that, I'm grateful. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/4/14

Head over and meet Jen & Kellee at www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for more on this awesome meme. There are many other
"It's Monday" links.

Summer is winding down, which sadly means my free reading time will soon be gone. Every summer I try to make it my goal to keep reading and reviewing books as often as I do in the summer, but the reality of that can be difficult. I would like to commit to still doing my It's Monday posts and reading during this next school year.

I read great books this week, so please check out my reviews below!

Books I Read Last Week...

Paperboy, by Vince Vawter, @VVAWTER                                                                                         (5 out of 5 stars)
Paperboy became a heart print book when I finished reading it this past week. Rarely does a book touch me to the point where I care so deeply about the characters that it causes me to cry. This book did it. About halfway through the book, I realized I was so connected with the characters. I could not put it down at that point and finished it, even though I savored the last few chapters. This is one of the books that you simply do not want to end. Vince Vawter, Newbery Honor Winner, shared the inspiration for this book below. It is clear this story means so much to him. I encourage all to read it and I will be singing its praises all school year. 

The Dumbest Idea Ever, by Jimmy Gownley                                                                                      (5 out of 5 stars)According to my local indie bookshop Joseph Beth Booksellers (relayed by my friend Laurie), this title has been jumping off the shelves. I enjoyed reading this graphic novel memoir of author Jimmy Gownley's beginnings as a graphic novelist. It has many laugh-out-loud moments, a touch of romance, and lots of inspiration for those students who are artistically inclined and those that read graphic novels. 

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack
(4 out of 5 stars) 

I enjoyed this graphic novel, which took an important historical figure and threw her into space through a time-warp. It had funny moments, some interesting information about Ancient Egyptians, and an action-packed plot. The end of the book leaves you on a bit of a cliffhanger. I will be ready to read the next one. Fans of the Astronaut Academy series would also enjoy this one. I have no doubt that my students will like to read this book.

My Teacher is a Monster, by Peter Brown, @itspeterbrown
(5 out of 5 stars)

There are times when you read a book and you say, "I HAVE to read this book aloud to my class!" I had that moment when I read My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown. It is simply just hilarious and the illustrations throughout the book morph beautifully before your eyes. I think we have all felt this way about teachers we have had - and I am sure some of my students have felt that way about me. I hope not too often, though! This book reminds us of the importance of not judging someone too quickly. Teachers, and students, are humans and there is more to connect us than what we may think. I will read this book the first day of school, August 19th, 2014. 

Hooray for Hat!, by Brian Won, @bwon1 
(5 out of 5 stars)

Simply just cute, cute, cute. Every animal in the book is grumpy or not feeling well, but the animals are cheered up by what else? HATS! I just thought this book was so whimsical and beautifully illustrated. The video below will play the book trailer for Hooray for Hat! It is adorable - just like the book! 

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kahara
(3 out of 5 stars) 

I loved this book for two main reasons: 1) I simply LOVE the idea of a night library. In fact, I wish there were night libraries for people, even though the night library in this book is for animals. 2) The illustrations and color scheme are gorgeous. There was not a huge amount of plot in this book, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. It celebrates libraries, books, and reading - so I'm on board! 

Doug Unplugs on the Farm by Dan Yaccarino                                                                                      (3 out of 5 stars) 

If you've ever read Dan's first book about Doug, called Doug Unplugged, you'll enjoy this one, too. On the farm, Doug and his robot parents are disconnected from their computer. So, Doug learns about the farm by experiencing it for himself, such as milking a cow and picking apples. I like the idea behind the series - "unplugging" - a lot :-)

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, @goraina                                                                                              (5 out of 5 stars) 

Raina Telgemeier has written another wonderful graphic novel memoir called Sisters, which highlights her relationship with her younger sister, Amara. There are many hilarious "incidents", but also a sad event in the family, as well. Raina's books are so easy to relate to, even though I do not have siblings. I think she perfectly captures the tumult of growing up, second-guessing yourself, and learning who you really are. 

You can read a seven page sneak preview at the link below. It comes out on my birthday - August 26, 2014! YAY! 

                                              What are you reading, friends?

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/28/14

Head over and meet Jen & Kellee at www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for more on this awesome meme. There are many other
"It's Monday" links.

Reflecting on the past week, it's clear I have been busy doing errands and other tasks and therefore did not much read as I desired. But, the three books I read were SUPER, so I cannot complain. Very soon I will be returning to school. Can I keep up the reading and posting? Taking bets...?!

Check out my reviews below!

Books I Read Last Week...

El Deafo, by Cece Bell
(5 out of 5 stars)

Thanks to my friend Stacy, @mytweendomwho paid the kindness forward by mailing me the ARC of this book, I was finally able to read El Deafo. I was not disappointed! Cece Bell, @CeceBellBooks, has written an amazing, heartfelt story based about her experiences as a child with hearing loss. This book moved me. This book has a fresh perspective and I could not stop reading once I started! When the book comes out officially in September, my classroom will have several copies and I doubt they will ever stay long on the shelf.

I wish this book has been around a few years back. I had a student (one of my all-time favorites) who had a hearing impairment. I think this book would have helped him through some difficult times. I just e-mailed his mom to tell her about El Deafo and suggested her family read it. I hope they do.

Read this book as soon as you can - you won't be sorry!

Bird & Squirrel On Ice, by James Burks, @jamesburksart 
(4 out of 5 stars)

This is the newest installment in the hilarious Bird & Squirrel graphic novel series. I just crack up at these books! I think the two characters are unique and fun. Wherever the two of them end up, adventures are sure to follow. This book finds them in the Arctic with a problem to solve - how to help a penguin village break free of the control of a whale. Will Bird & Squirrel be successful at helping the penguin village? At the end, Bird & Squirrel fly off to their next location - where will they end up next? Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

The Most Magnificient Thing by Ashley Spires, @ashleyspires 
(4 out of 5 stars) 

I encourage you to read this beautiful book. The main character, I'd say, is a perfectionist and tries throughout the book to make what she believes is the "most magnificent" thing. Sometimes in life, it takes more than one try to get things right. This book will be one of my read-alouds this year. Author Ashley Spires reminds readers below to look for a special, humorous part of the book. I had to go back to catch it! Kids will love it =)

What are you reading, friends?

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/21/14

Head over and meet Jen & Kellee at www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for more on this awesome meme. There are many other
"It's Monday" links.

This has been a lucky week for a reader - it is what I like to call a "Five-Star Reading Week". All of the books I read were amazingly awesome (or fantafabulous, if you are writer @_natalielloyd) and all earned 5 star ratings!

I can't choose a favorite! Check out my reviews below!

Books I Read Last Week...
Beekle, by Dan Santat
(5 out of 5 stars)

I think we all had imaginary friends as kids. I know I did, especially being an only child. Beekle is just too impatient to wait to be chosen as a friend by a child, so he sets out on a journey to find his friend. Beekle is a special character, one who did not just sit around and wait. This is a cute book and the ending was wonderful. I will let you experience it for yourself :)

Comics Squad: Recess! 
Edited by Jenni L. Holm, Matthew Holm, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Comics by the above, plus Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang
(5 out of 5 stars)

If you are an elementary classroom teacher, you better just bust out the credit card, head to your nearest local bookstore, and buy multiple copies of this hilarious compilation of comics all centered around the theme of recess. I know having 10 copies will not even be enough for my readers come this fall. It reminds me of when all of the popular cartoon characters, in 1990, got together to do that special against drugs**. Slimer, Alf, Garfield, and even the Smurfs appeared! The authors of the comics in this book are so talented and it will be a exciting for my students to see them all together.

**Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, 1990

What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
(5 out of 5 stars) 

This book should be read by every student, read aloud in every classroom, and shared with families, too. It is one of those books that takes something we take for granted and turns it into a moving and poignant story. Anyone who has ever had an idea, that was ultimately misunderstood and/or criticized, can relate well to this book. Ideas are the most important contributions we can make to the world. I encourage you to read this beautiful book. 

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd 
(5 out of 5 stars)

Words, words, and more words. I love words. Words are what make up books and what we share with the world around us. The main character in the book, Felicity, has a special gift when it comes to words. (One I wish I had!) She is yearning for a home and for magic to return to her town. This beautiful story will most likely be on the shortlist for a Newbery award and it would be well-deserved. Students would need to keep up with many characters in this book and at times the plot spun a bit, but ultimately this a book that readers will savor...much like the ice-cream discussed and consumed on almost every page!

  What are you reading, friends?

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/14/14

Head over and meet Jen & Kellee at www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for more on this awesome meme. There are many other
"It's Monday" links.

It's been two weeks since I wrote an IMWAYR post. Sorry ;( I was not able to do one while I was at #nerdcampmi - too much learning and fun was going on! I followed the tradition of checking out a book stack of 10 books which were picture books or graphic novels. It was a fun two weeks of reading! 

My favorite reads of the past two weeks were Gaston and Jellaby. Check out my reviews below!

Books I Read The Past Two Weeks...
The Great Fuzz Frenzy, by Janet Stevens
(4 out of 5 stars)

This is a darling book about some lucky prairie dogs who come encounter a fuzzy tennis ball. Suddenly, the fuzz becomes a precious commodity! There are some colorful characters and lots of fun dialogue in this picture book. It would be a great read aloud ;-)

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt
(5 out of 5 stars)

Um, Scaredy Squirrel is one of my TOP FIVE favorite picture book characters ever! I think it's because Scaredy reminds me so much of my young self - anxious and worrisome. I spent many a night unable to sleep worrying about tornadoes, criminals breaking in, and other frightening things. I just love how prepared Scaredy is to make sure he feels no worry or anxiety, but does his birthday party end up the way he plans? (Thankfully, for us the readers, the answer is NO!)

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett
(3 out of 5 stars) 

I liked the book for being about a historical figure (President William Howard Taft) and the pictures are amazing! I thought the focus on the weight of the President overtook the book a bit and wish it could have included some of his more distinguishable, non-nude achievements. But, the funny was there, and I think my students would really like it, especially as a read aloud. 

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio 
(5 out of 5 stars)

This book was a true delight - one of my favorite picture books of the year so far! Gaston feels as if he may not fit into his family upon visiting a local dog park one day. But, Gaston realizes that what may look right doesn't always feel right. The art in this book is beautiful and the story is truly heartwarming. Read it soon!

Jellaby #1 by Kean Soo

This graphic novel has been a hit in my classroom for several years and for some reason I had not yet read it. Now I see why my kids love it. Jellaby, a very strange creature, changes a little girl's life (Portia) by appearing one night outside her window. Jellaby may also hold some clues to Portia's past. The book is such fun, especially when the three main characters go looking for a secret door and are chased by a creepy man. Jellaby ended with a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to read the next one! (It's currently packed in my classroom, but come August I will dig it out!)

Other Books I Read These Past Two Weeks...

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman (4 out of 5 stars)
Julia, Child by Kyo Mclear (3 out of 5 stars)
Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague (4 out of 5 stars)
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner (4 out of 5 stars)
Skippyjon Jones: Lost in Spice by Judy Schachner (3 out of 5 stars)
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster (5 out of 5 stars)
The Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel (5 out of 5 stars)

The Great Eight About #nErDcampMI 2014

Last week, @nErDcampMI took place in Parma, Michigan. It was the best professional development of the summer (just like last year's was). The conference was full of hanging out with great friends, learning about great books, and attending interesting sessions. Thanks to all of the organizers, planners, and supporters! 

I could write an entire day's worth of take-aways from the conference, but instead I will highlight my "great eight" from the conference (in no particular order).

If you have not been able to attend nErDcampMI yet, do not miss out on next year's event. It is truly a remarkable time!

The Great Eight

8. Tony Keefer's (@TonyKeefer) session about technology in a reading workshop classroom was not to be missed and posed the question, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" This question was in regards to using technology with your students. His point was that teachers sometimes go through a lot of hassle to use technology and he wonders is it always as valuable as we think it is? According to Tony, authenticity with technology is important and I walked away realizing that I have used technology "just to use it" before. I see now that I should only be using technology to engage students in extending and reflecting on their reading. I also loved Tony's comments about how reading time each day in class - from day one until the end of the year - is a non-negotiable. I agree!!!

7. The technology tool smackdown between Stacey Schuh (@sschuhtech) and Brad Wilson (@dreambitionwas awesome! I learned about so many writing technology tools in a head-spinning amount of time. I highly suggest you check out the following writing tech. tools: Narrable, Storybird, Padlet, Animoto, and my favorite, LittleBirdTales. 

Check out these adorable LittleBirdTales videos: Max's Tale and Lucia's Tale

Brad Wilson is the creator of  and . He is also co-founder
of writeabout.com. Check these out, too!

6. Running in the inaugural Nerd 5K was a fun, albeit painful, experience. I had not run a distance that long since my half-marathon two years ago. Whew! Luckily, I had the encouragement of my buddy, Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic) to help me along. This race could have probably been considered a Tough Mudder. It was extremely humid and the sun was ablaze - but I did it! Luckily for me, not many men under 35 ran the race, so by miracle of miracles, I won third place. I got a rad Nerd 5K cup for my sweaty efforts :-) 

5. The swag bags ROCKED! I scored copies of Kate Messner's Manhunt, Linda Urban's Hound Dog True, Jude Watson's Loot, and many, many more. Getting a copy of The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson for sharing a take-away from the conference at the end was also sweet! The work that Colby, Alaina, Suzanne, and so many others put into this event is amazing. And did I mention #nerdcampmi is totally FREE?!

4. Meeting Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads) was a highlight of the trip. He has been a hero of mine for many years, and I really enjoyed the time we got to spend talking about books and life in general. I am glad now I can call him a friend. I also want to say I was glad to meet these previously online-only friends - Kurt, Jason, Ann, Lesley, Meagan, Mary Jo, Tricia, and more. And hanging out with my friend Kathy was a pleasure. I am her job now. I was also super excited to meet authors Jess Keating (How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied), Liesel Shurtliff (Rump and the upcoming Jack), and Ruth McNally Barshaw (the Ellie McDoodle series).

3. Attending Katherine (@katsok) and Donalyn (@donalynbooks) session on the Best 2014 books (so far) was great. I had my Goodreads page open and added books to my "want to read list"  at breakneck speed. There is nothing better than sharing good books in an auditorium full of other book lovers, is there? Check out the Padlet created by Katie Muhtaris (@literacysparkthat gives you lowdown on these awesome books: Best Books of the Year

2. Attending Kristin McIlhagga's (@TeachChildLit) session on graphic novels was a helpful experience for many reasons. I never thought that much about the ways in which readers of graphic novels read differently than other readers. They scan the text and comprehend the story much differently than a reader of a text-only book. I walked away with a better understanding that every color, line, and shadow in a graphic novel is intentional and has a meaning behind it. I also loved this session because I got to hear ideas from Matt Faulkner, author of the new graphic novel Gaijin: American Prisoner of War. He had a lot of great theories on why boys may be drawn more to graphic novels than girls.  Check out the book trailer for Gaijin: American Prisoner of War

1. This quote from Donalyn Miller's keynote speech is still sticking in my mind:"Reading does not belong to school or to teachers. It belongs to readers." We cannot forget that we teach readers. Our students' lifelong reading journeys should be our focus. 

Thank you, nErDcamp!

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/30/14

Head over and meet Jen & Kellee at www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for more on this awesome meme. There are many other
"It's Monday" links.

I started a new tradition this past week. I checked out a book stack, of 10 books, to enjoy. This week they were wordless picture books or picture books. It was a fun week! My favorite of the week was Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly. This is my favorite picture book of 2014. Such a meaningful story. I also really loved Journey, by Aaron Becker - a book I had not read, even though I should have long ago. Special shout to Peter Brown, author of Children Make Terrible Pets and many other great books. He's one talented guy!

Books I Read This Past Week...
Children Make Terrible Pets, by @itspeterbrown
(5 out of 5 stars)

Peter Brown writes the most hilarious, wonderful books. I so enjoyed Children Make Terrible Pets and look forward to reading You Will Be My Friend! Who can resist Lucy - a bear with a cute bow in her hair and tutu? 

Journey by Aaron Becker, @storybreathing
(5 out of 5 stars)

I never thought I would be one to really enjoy wordless picture books, but I have discovered how wonderful wordless picture books are and I would like to use them more in my classroom. I know many of my Nerdy Book Club friends do! This book would be #1 on top of the pile I would like to use in class. I think that as we get older, it's easy to lose our childhood imagination. Books like this remind me how important it is to hold onto to imagination. Truly a magical book - pick it up if you haven't. 

Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly
(5 out of 5 stars) 

Some books just touch you. This is one of them. By far my favorite picture book, and maybe book, of the year so far. Being a child of divorce, this book really connected with me. Emily goes through her blue period - following after Pablo Picasso (Emily is a great artist if you didn't guess), which relates to the struggles she is having in her life. I just loved how Emily grew throughout the book and of course, the ending was wonderful. This would be a great book to read aloud to a class and I plan on it next year! 

Other Books I Read This Past Week...
Owen by Kevin Henkes (5 out of 5 stars)
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (5 out of 5 stars)
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (4 out of 5 stars)
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (4 out of 5 stars)
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (5 out of 5 stars)
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall (4 out of 5 stars)
Peanut Butter and Jellyfish by Jarrett K. Krosoczka (4 out of 5 stars)

                                       What are you reading, friends?