Friday, January 20, 2017

Spotlight Friday: Books I Wish the President and his Cabinet Would Read 1.20.17

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

These are just some stories I wish the President and his Cabinet would read, think about, reflect upon, and talk about with one another:

The Cat From Hunger Mountain
The Cat From Hunger Mountain by Ed Young
Remember how much is enough.  Remember what now to waste and not to live excessively.  Think about what it is like to live as someone who is opposite of you.  Think about how you could help others.

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat
Immigrant seems to have become a dirty word, thanks in part to the past presidential election season.  Now that we have a new president, I'm not sure what will happen to our nation next.  I feel that people (politicians) have forgotten that when they use the word "immigrant", they are referring to a person.  I love that Danticat makes this story so personal.  It's hard to read this and not relate to the family in the story.  May today's politicians listen to young voices like the reporter does in this story.

The Sun Is Also a Star
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
read above

The Soccer Fence: A story of friendship, hope, and apartheid in South Africa
The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope and Apartheid in South Africa by Phil Bildner
I feel like we are on a slippery slope right now and our country is sliding backwards.  There is a feeling of privilege like never before.  Please, today's politicians, learn from mistakes in history.  Don't repeat them.

Each Kindness
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
I know I don't have to talk about this book with any of you.  I bet you already have it in your arsenal of books.  There's a good chance you've already pulled it out this year.  How many of you read it on November 9th?
But we know that kindness is something that has not been spread by our upcoming president.  I'm not sure he knows the meaning.  I'm not sure if he could recognize it if it hit him in the face.  This should be his nightly bedtime book.  Every.  Single.  Night.  For the next 4 years....

March: Book One (March, #1)       March: Book Two (March, #2)       March: Book Three (March, #3)
March: Books One, Two, and Three by Congressman John Lewis
And that's all I have to/need to say about that.

What books would you put on their reading list?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hate U Give - review 1.19.17

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
published by Balzer + Bray
Feb. 28th

Goodreads Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

My Quick Thoughts:
I'm writing my thoughts off the cuff, without much thought.  I actually don't want to think much about them because I'd rather them be raw and uncensored.  

The time we are living in is scary.  Living in a Chicago suburb means I watch Chicago news.  Every night there is news of shootings.  Sometimes you hear the names for a night or two, sometimes they make national headlines.  But when I listen to them, it still seems like it's all so far away.  Chicago and Chicago suburbs are two very different places.  

The words "my privilege" have been spoken more and more lately.  I've had time to digest them, think about them, go back and forth with them.  I still don't know if I understand them to the fullest extent.  And I don't think I'll ever fully understand them because that's what I live behind - a privilege.

I think that sometimes makes it hard to review books.  Especially those that are as relevant as The Hate U Give.  But here's what I think.  If I don't read them, and if I don't talk about them, how else am I going to learn?  To open my mind?  To understand?  I want to grow as a person.  I want where we live to change.  But if I'm not willing to get uncomfortable about it, then I can't change.

What I loved about this book is Thomas explores so many aspects about the events.  The main character, Starr, is so dimensional.  I think she's going to react, think, say one thing, but she constantly surprised me.  Because events like the ones explored in the book are not cut and dry.  Thomas does an amazing job bringing the different sides of conversations to light and it made me constantly think.

I think this book is going to make people talk.  I really really hope it's used in high schools everywhere.  We need to have this generation getting the conversations going about race and stereotypes and judgments and perceptions and cultures and so many other things.  I hope the conversations lead to change and action.  I hope this generation can lead the way.  

I hope you read this book on February 28th.  I hope you pass this book along and find others to read and then talk about this book.



                 What a conversation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Sibert guesses 1.18.17

(photo credit to Sarah Brannan)

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Alyson Beecher at and I have had a lot of fun playing with Sibert guesses.  Have you been playing along?  Check out our previous posts:

My Mock Sibert intro post
My Mock Sibert picture books guesses
My Mock Sibert longer nonfiction guesses


Alyson's Mock intro post
Alyson's Mock Sibert picture book  guesses
Alyson's Mock Sibert longer nonfiction guesses

I've also been having my 3rd grade reading intervention students participate in a Mock Sibert/Sibert Smackdown.  Here is more about that:

My Mock Sibert/Sibert Smackdown post

With all of this talk about Sibert, I have some guesses about what the committee may be presenting on Monday.  Here are my guesses for the 2017 Sibert Award:


Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White  
by Melissa Sweet

Honor Books:

Giant Squid
Giant Squid 
by Candace Fleming

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics
Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics 
by Steve Jenkins

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph 
by Roxane Orgill

A Poem for Peter
A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Tune in next week to see how my picks did!  Be sure to tune in to the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23rd!  Next week I will also share what my students chose as their top Sibert Smackdown books.

How did my picks compare to Alyson's?  Visit her post and see!  She also has a wonderful Mock Sibert giveaway you won't want to miss!

Happy nonfiction reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - Mock Geisel update 1.17.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

One thing we know about getting readers onto the #road2reading is it needs to be engaging. Readers want to enjoy the books they are reading.  Of course, we know they need to be supported while they read, but readers should always have a choice of fun books to read.

Isn't it a wonderful thing knowing that this is the first thing mentioned in the Geisel Award criteria.  To be specific:

Criteria: The award shall be given annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature that encourages and supports the beginning reader published in English in the United States during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it will be original and function successfully as a book for beginning readers. Honor Books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.

I first came upon the Geisel Award about 4 years ago.  I was more familiar with the Caldecott and Newbery Awards, but the Geisel was new.  But then I saw some familiar books, books that I knew and loved and knew kids knew and loved!  Books by Mo Willems, Cynthia Rylant and Kate DiCamillo.  I quickly set about reading all of the books that had been awarded the Geisel and Geisel Honor Awards (the award has been around since 2006 so it is absolutely doable).  The first thing I noticed was there were books in this mix that had easily decodable text.  And they were good.  Some books were quick, some had chapters.  But they all had fun stories.

Looking for a list of books to use with readers who need text that will support them and stories that are fun?  Then you'll want to check out past Geisel winners.  Here is a list of past winners.

For the past two years we've held a Mock Geisel for our kindergarten students and first grade students.  We're on year three!  This is one of the most fun mocks to run because you're looking for a book that will encourage and support beginning readers.  What does that mean?  We're looking for a book that makes reading fun for our readers.  Great!  We list other criteria that comes from the criteria the Geisel committee uses (here is the official criteria).  The kids' favorite one is talking about does it make you want to turn the page?  They love using that in their conversations!

The hardest part for me is picking out the books to use.  I do not have a good track record!  For the past two years, I've gotten one book correct each year.  But the way I look at it, the kindergarten and first grade students are:

  • being exposed to fantastic literature
  • starting to hold criteria in their minds while listening to books and talking about them with their peers
  • becoming familiar with these books so when they read them again or check them out at the library, they are already familiar with the words in the story
  • understanding that books win awards and those shiny stickers mean something!
This Friday our students will get to vote in their respective grade level Mocks.  The students will enter into a voting carousel and get an official ballot.  After they cast their vote, they'll get "I voted" stickers.  Next Tuesday, all students will gather for a school wide assembly to hear what books our school voted to win for the Mock Geisel, Caldecott and Newbery Awards and watch the recorded webcast.  I know we'll hear shouts and screams of delight and lots of applause.

So what books did we read this year?  What are some books you may want to check out for your #road2reading Challenge?  Here they are:

Crossing my fingers I have more than one book on the winners list this year!  If not, than our students still had a good run!

Are you familiar with these books?  Interested in holding a Mock Geisel?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Be sure to check in with Alyson Beecher of kidlitfrenzy as she talks more about the Geisel Award in her post.

Have a post you would like to link up?  Join us in the #road2reading Challenge!

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.16.17

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

On the #road2reading Challenge I talked about the importance of labeling books so all readers are validated.  Post is here.

I gave an update on our #mockSibert #sibertsmackdown here.

Don't miss this amazing wordless picture book, Wolf in the Snow.

Picture Books

I Am Not a Number
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis
4/5 stars
Twitter friend Scott Fillner alerted me to this book about a point in history that I was not familiar with.  A book about the unfair treatment, this time of Canadian indigenous people and the removal of children to residential schools where harsh punishments and conditions awaited them.  Great author's note in the back about the origins of this particular story.

Also An Octopus
Also An Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
4/5 stars
A lot of people have read this and talked about what a great book it is to use for writing.  I agree and would also add that what I like is it keeps asking "what if".  I hear a lot of authors talk about this in Skype visits and I'm not sure if we say that to kids often enough.  What if...

XO, OX: A Love Story
XO, OX: A Love Story by Adam Rex
4/5 stars
I chuckled my way through this book.  Written in back and forth letters, a smitten ox and a famous gazelle have differing opinions of each other - good thing the ox is so easy going!  
I added this book to my list of books that would be good to use for turning point.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family
A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O'Leary
5/5 stars
Wonderful author/illustrator combination of Sara O'Leary and Qin Leng.  I've owned this book since early fall but just finally got around to reading it.  Love the celebration of families in a very matter of fact way.

Faraway Fox
Faraway Fox by Jolene Thompson
4/5 stars
At first, the reader has to put the text and illustrations together to really understand what the narrator is not telling us.
The narrator, a young fox, is letting the reader know about what he remembers about living in the forest with his family.  As he gives us bits and pieces, we see the fox living in a suburban community, which is not matching the story he is telling us.  Soon, we realize that somehow he had been separated from his home in the forest to where he is now.  We also can see, via signs that construction is being done to create a tunnel that can be used by wildlife so they don't get caught between their own habitat and a suburban environment.  
Wonderful author's note giving additional information about human encroachment on animals' natural habitats and what some places are doing to help.

Early Chapter Books

My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories
My Kite is Stuck and Other Stories by Salina Yoon
5/5 stars
I love this new series by Yoon!  I already know for a fact that young readers love the characters of Big Duck, Little Duck and Porcupine.  In this second in the series, Little Duck finds himself being the only one, besides the reader, who really sees and understands what it is going on.  It's obvious to the reader and it makes the reader feel like we are "in" on the joke/funny situation along side Little Duck.  I appreciate that Yoon does not write down to her young audience, instead inviting them along with the characters.

Middle Grade

Masterminds: Payback (Masterminds, #3)
Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman
4/5 stars
A satisfying end to the trilogy.  The first one blew me away with its clever I-did-not-see-that-coming plot.  It was so fun to read!  The second one certainly developed on the big idea of the first book and was filled with action.  This third one did too, but now it seemed not as exciting as the first two.  I think readers of this series will be happy with the conclusion.

The House of Months and Years
The House of Months and Years by Emma Trevayne
I'm going to refrain from rating this one.  This is one of those books that may have been wrong time for me to read books.  It took me awhile to read it, often I read one chapter at a time, and I never got into it.  I'll be interested in seeing what readers think of it.  
In the same vein as The Night Gardener, but wasn't as developed, in my opinion.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
5/5 stars
Oh, there is so much to love about this book.  Love the characters (almost all of them anyway) and the way they rise up - for each other and in life (totally want to sing some Hamilton right now...).  Loved Perry and his way of looking for the positives.  I think there are kids who are born with the ability to do this.  I am not one and because of that, I admire those that can and do!  While this was a lengthy book, I was intrigued the whole way and enjoyed seeing how the plot and characters developed.  As I read, I kept thinking about how this is not a situation that I am familiar with or the majority of students I teach.  I think it was so interesting to change the perspective on how I might feel about the families in this situation.
This is a current Mock Newbery selection for our students.  It will be interesting to see how the conversation goes with young readers!

Currently Reading

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
At 624 pages, this is a read and an exercise program.  Working those biceps!  I see the third one is going to be even longer!

Happy Reading this week!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Spotlight Friday - Wolf in the Snow 1.13.17

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

The value of wordless picture books in classrooms are severely underrated.  The complexity of wordless picture books and the close reading work that can be done around them is an asset that is not used enough.

Wolf in the Snow
Wolf in the Snow
by Matthew Cordell
published by Feiwel and Friends

I'm absolutely in love with Matthew Cordell's newest book.  If this is any inclination of what's to come in 2017, I'm very excited for this year!  The emotions in this book and the possible conversations around it will be so exciting for students.  The possibilities around the reading and writing work using this picture book are fantastic.  I hope this book finds a way into your classroom library!

Reading work:
  • as novels grow more complex, there are often multiple story lines that readers have to navigate.  This picture book has multiple story lines.  By teaching readers to pay attention to them and notice when they converge, it's a skill they can transfer to longer texts.
  • teach rising action?  Conflict?  Resolution?  Find those things in a picture book!
Writing work:
  • notice the choice Cordell made to have the first few pages of the book come before the title page.  How does this set up the book?  What difference does it make?
  • all of the writing that would be displayed in text, occurs in the illustrations.  Notice and discuss the way Cordell includes the feelings/mood/tone in illustration.  How would that be conveyed in writing?
Social/Classroom community work:
  • have a discussion about the empathy the characters display towards each other - how do they overcome their initial fear and distrust?  How does this help?
  • Discuss compassion.
  • Talk about communication - ways different groups can positively communicate
Enjoy this book!  It's one I plan on using over and over again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Mock Sibert/Sibert Smackdown update 1.11.17

(photo credit to Sarah Brannan)

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Before the Winter Break, I posted several times about Mock Sibert.  Here they are if you would like to take a look at them:

Coming back from break, I started doing a modified version of Mock Sibert/Sibert Smackdown with my 3rd grade intervention students.  I would love to see this done on a bigger scale at our school, but, our teachers are all doing Mock Caldecott and Mock Geisel and are consumed enough with that.

I was getting ready to start a nonfiction unit with my students and I thought this would be a good way to begin.

I picked 12 books to read aloud to my students.  I used books that came from the lists that Alyson Beecher and I shared before break (here is Aly's list).  There always seems to be more notable picture book biographies than other nonfiction material so I spend time trying to make sure I have a picture book biography matched up with a nonfiction picture book that is about a social issue or science or social studies (not always easy).
I print up a Sibert Smackdown sheet from Melissa Stewart (found here).  I modify just a few things to meet the needs of my students.
Here are the goals I have for this unit:
  • because I am using this at the beginning of the nonfiction unit, I want students to be exposed to listening to nonfiction in a read aloud format.  Rarely is nonfiction used as a read aloud.  What great exposure this is for them.
  • I constantly refer to the Sibert criteria that we are using to critique the books.  They are listed on the side of the Smackdown sheet.  I have found when students critique a book, they really just want to say whether it was a good "story" or not - or if it was "interesting".  To get them to think about the many things an author does to improve the reading experience is hard.  By doing this over and over, students will not only become more attuned to thinking about this, they will also use this in their own independent reading.
Right now, I am reading one book each day, and after the students have listened to 2 books, we go back through the criteria and rate the books.  Because I also want them practicing picking out details, they also have to write a couple of facts that stuck out to them about one of the books.

We're keeping each of the Smackdown sheets they fill out until we've completed all of the books.  At that point, each student will pick a book to champion.  Using their critique sheet, they will write longer about why it should be a book the Sibert committee should award the medal to at the YMAs.  It just so happens this will end around the time of the awards and we'll culminate with watching that part of the award show together.

I think this is a great way to include nonfiction picture books into your read aloud time.  I'm finding it to be a perfect way to kick off a nonfiction unit. 

Here are the books we are using in this unit:

Every Day Birds             vs.           Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead

Coyote Moon            vs.          Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

Giant Squid                    vs.         The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation

The Great Leopard Rescue: Saving the Amur Leopards           vs.         Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep          vs.         Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber                    vs.         Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics

Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater vs. Hillary Rodham Clinton by Michelle Markel
Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferarri vs. Swimming With Sharks by Heather Lang
Giant Squid by Candace Fleming vs. The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring by Gilbert Ford.
The Great Leopard Rescue by Sandra Markle vs. Whoosh! by Chris Barton
Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre vs. Mountain Chef by Annette Pimentel
Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy vs. Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

Are you doing a Mock Sibert/Sibert Smackdown?  What books are on your list?