Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8.31.15

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.

First week of school!  First week of school!  I managed to get some reading in - back to "reading in the edges".

Last week's reading adventures

I celebrated the small things of summer that make me happy here.

With the 10th anniversary of Katrina this past weekend, I collected some great texts that tell the stories of this disaster in this post.

Have you read Wait by Antoinette Portis?  It's a beautiful book.  Read my review here.

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast
Finally, I ended the book celebrated the debut book of a very promising author, Mr. Josh Funk.  Please pick up a copy of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast and then check out some teaching ideas here.

Picture Books

Ask Me
Ask Me by Bernard Waber
3/5 stars
This book is a cute story about a conversation that goes back and forth between a dad and his daughter.  The little girl wants her to dad to ask her questions about what she likes which she goes on to answer.  The story itself is just ok, but I think it would be fun to use at the beginning of the year to have students answer the question "what do you want me to know" or "tell me about what you like".
The illustrations in this book are beautiful, I love the colored pencil drawings.

Prince Fly Guy (Fly Guy #15)
Prince Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
4/5 stars
I've grown to appreciate the Fly Guy series and what they do for readers.  I've had many readers who needed "that" book and Fly Guy was the one.
Fly Guy helps Buzz write a fairy tale.  Readers will recognize many familiar characters.

Informational Texts

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz
How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz by Jonah Winter
4/5 stars
The colors, the vocabulary, the way the phrases go together... This book oozes jazz as close as you can get to hearing it.  
Good picture book biography of the man who was a pioneer of jazz music, Jelly Roll Morton.

Graphic Novels

Sunny Side Up
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
4/5 stars
I love that Jennifer and Matthew Holm have teamed up for something a bit different than their usual collaborations.  This time it's a loosely based memoir on their family, told in a graphic novel format.  While the book may be seen as having a sensitive subject - a family member has a substance abuse problem - it is a conversation that can be had with readers.  This could be a book that is important to a child.  The issue at hand is dealt with in a sensitive manner and the subject matter is not the primary issue.  Instead, the book rightly concentrates on the main character, Sunny, and her being put into a new setting - her grandfather's retirement community.  Luckily she makes a friend and finds something that binds them as friends - comic books!  Meanwhile, the reader can see that Sunny is conflicted with fitting in at her grandfather's while wondering if she was at fault with what happened at home.  Holm deftly weaves the story between the present day and snippets of the past to let us slowly understand the events that lead up to Sunny's current living placement.  I continue to be impressed with the work of the Holm siblings and their understanding of what books - in any format - can do for their readers.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn (Heavenly Nostrils #1)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
4/5 stars
Another graphic novel, but definitely different than Sunny Side Up.
Originally started as a comic in 2012 that ran online, it has since made its debut in newspapers and now in books.  The books chronicle Phoebe and her new best friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, who is also a unicorn.  More like a comic book I read as a kid - Peanuts, Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes come to mind - while the story somewhat has a flow, it really is meant as a strip and not one long graphic novel.  Because of how familiar students are with graphic novels and the continuous story they provide, they may need some clarification when beginning a book like this.  But, once they understand how the flow moves the story along, I think readers will get caught up with the humor and laugh-out-loud moments this book provides.  I loved the banter between Phoebe and Marigold.  Will be fun to see students appreciate the humor!

Squish #7: Deadly Disease of Doom
Squish #7: Deadly Disease of Doom by Jennifer Holm
4/5 stars
I love the way the Holm siblings integrate things into their books that make them fun.
With Squish, it's the added pieces of science.  And Babymouse.

Middle Grade

Glory Be
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
4/5 stars
2016 Bluestem nominee
I read this one with my ears.  And felt like Felicity Pickle was reading me this story!  Cassandra Morris, the narrator for Snicker of Magic, narrated this one too.  
What a great intro to Freedom Summer for young readers.  Augusta Scattergood knows how to tell a good story.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
5/5 stars
I've been very late to the Brian Selznick party.  It's not that I didn't own the books, as evidenced from the Border receipt dated 2007.
I knew I wanted to get to the books so I made sure to put this one on my #mustreadin2015 list.  And it was a Schneider Award winner and it was on our IL Bluestem nominee list last year.
Read it.  Just like Hugo, it's simply amazing.  I probably don't need to go into too much detail about the book since most of you have read it.  If you haven't, run to your library!  What amazes me about both Selznick books I've read so far is his ability to weave stories that span different decades or seemingly different characters together.
Now I'm onto...

Currently Reading

The Marvels
The Marvels
 by Brian Selznick

Yes, it's just as amazing.  I'm more than 1/2 way through - almost the first 400 pages are his amazing illustrations.  I know the story lines are going to come together I just don't know how and I want to get right back to the book now!

On Deck

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee
A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher
This book is told from the perspective of Eponine from Les Mis.  I am a ginormous Les Mis fan and can't wait to start this book!

Coming later in the week is my review for this fun picture book.  Check back on Thursday!
Max the Brave

Happy Reading this week!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast - a review and teaching ideas

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast
Written by Josh Funk
Illustrated by Brendan Kearney
Published by Sterling Children's Books

We got our first tease of this book back in June when the trailer of the book was revealed on Mr. Schu's blog Watch. Connect. Read.  Did you get a chance to watch it?  If not, make sure you view it now...

The next tease I got was when I met Mr. Josh Funk in person at nerdcampMI.  Not only did I get a viewing of the book on his laptop, but he also read it to a small audience of nerdy friends.  How often can you say you heard the author read the book to you, in person?!  We also got previews of his next two books, Dear Dragon (2016) and Pirasaurs! (2017).  Go ahead, add them to your TBR list too!

Note the "water bottle" Mr. Funk is drinking from...

This book is a delight to read out loud.  The rhymes roll off your tongue, they are fun and make you smile.  The idea of food going for a race through your refrigerator is imaginative and fun.  But pair it with the idea of Sauerkraut Peak or Orange Juice Fountain, now you have a whole new world coming to life!

As a reading teacher/coach, I'm always thinking of ways to use books.  I love finding books that I know kids will enjoy reading, but when I can think of ways to use it to teach how to read like a writer or ways to dig in deeper, then that book becomes even more special!  As I read through this book, oh, a few times, I kept finding new ways to use it.  Here are some ideas you can use in your classroom or library when reading Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast!


* This is a book that you will want to read the first time from beginning to end and just have students enjoy it.  Josh does a wonderful job building excitement and students are going to want to get to the end of the "race" to see what happens.  

After you've read it once all the way through, let the students talk about the book!  You'll be surprised that quite often some of the best conversations start with their questions and ideas.  You can always use these ideas to further the discussion.

* Our main characters learn a great lesson about being friends in this story.  Discuss that central message.  How did they figure it out?

* Authors will sometimes throw in a surprise character that changes things.  How did that work in this story?

* Authors often build the action by using suspense.  Track the rising action in this story.  How does it start?  When does it change?

* This is a book that is told in rhyme.  Why does rhyme work for the story?  What makes it unique to be told in that way?

Writing Mentor Text

Josh has an amazing way with words in this text.  Use it to look at

* different ways of saying 'said':  conversed, bragged, demanded, snickered

* verbs:  clutching, plummeting, rappelled, slathered, reemerged, bickered

* figurative language:  fork in a road (although there really in a fork in the illustration...)

Writing Activities

* Carrie Gelson did a great book preview with this book.  Check out her idea here.

* Have some before and after debates.  Hang up a photocopied picture of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  (Or, if you want some sweet swag and you're in the New England area visit one of the bookstores listed below and get some Lady P and Sir F.T. trading cards or pins)  Have students decide what team they are on before reading Sir French Toast or Lady Pancake.  Don't forget to have them give (or write) their reasons.  Hold a debate - what side do you want to be on and why?  Then read the book.  Have an after reading debate.  Did anything change?  What if you threw up the mystery character, would that make a difference?

Check out the sweet activity kit Sterling Publishing has put together.  It's on Josh's blog here.

So don't forget to walk run to your local bookstore or library and get a copy of this book on Tuesday, September 1st.  It's too fun to miss!

In the New England area?  Here are some of Josh's upcoming appearances:
Sept. 1st:  Porter Square Books Cambridge, MA
Sept. 9th:  An Unlikely Story Plainville, MA
Sept. 12th:  Cary Memorial Library Lexington, MA
Oct. 24th:  Wellesley Books Wellesley, MA
Nov. 14th:  The Blue Bunny Dedham, MA

Visit for all the latest Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast info!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wait - a review

Image result for wait antoinette portis
by Antoinette Portis

I remember being a young girl, in the summer time, and being bored out of my mind!  There was nothing to do.  A bike ride around the block wouldn't do when I knew I could ride farther.  But without an adult with me, I was "stuck" in the confines of my home.  And then I specifically remember my mom telling me to enjoy this time because one day, I would want to be bored.  At the time, it was something I couldn't fathom.  Why would I want to be bored?

This memory somehow got stuck in my long term memory.  Why?  What was so memorable about it?  I'm not sure, but I do know my mom was correct.  Boredom is a luxury that most adults don't have.  To be able to slow down and appreciate the small details going on around us is something I know I rarely find the time to do.  Often I remind myself to slow down and take the time to do something special with my child because at some point, she won't be bored, nor will she want to spend her "being bored" time with me.  So often my mantra is go faster, get more done, hurry hurry hurry.

In a very simply told picture book, we see this very scene come to life.  In Wait, a young boy is on his way with him mom in the city rushing to a destination.  In each scene, we see the young boy delight in some small detail and want to slow down and experience it.  But the mom is always in a hurry to get to the next place and constantly tells her young child to "hurry".  But it's at the end that the young boy shows his point to "wait", because that's when you get to see the beauty of life.

What an important book for everyone.  Young readers will delight at the boy's finds on each page.  They will understand that need to slow down and have fun where you're at.  Adult readers will appreciate the mom's need to get to where she is going and always needing to rush their children along.  But maybe that's why they need to read this book.  To understand to wait means maybe getting something in return.

This simple book will easily top my Mock Geisel stack this year.  Antoinette Portis knows something about that award seeing as her book Not a Box earned a Geisel Honor.  I hope as other adults read this book they will not only enjoy sharing it with readers but also appreciate the simplicity of the message and apply it to their own life.

No, wait.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 8.26.15 Katrina


I am excited to join Alyson Beecher and other friends in this weekly challenge.  Finding great nonfiction picture books isn't a challenge anymore, there are so many wonderful books to be read now!  The challenge is sharing them with as many people as possible so they can find this wealth of literature to share with our young readers.  Thanks to Aly for starting this weekly link-up and thanks to all who join in!  See all of the posts at kidlitfrenzy.

This weekend will be the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation she left in Louisiana and Mississippi.  I remember it well, watching it on TV, as I held my newborn baby girl.  I was in a state of unrest, yet a happy state of being tired.  And here were people who were exhausted, but for a very very different reason.  

I've recently come across some books that share the devastation of Katrina.

First, here's a book that gives students a great overview of hurricanes.  If there is a nonfiction book by Melissa Stewart, you know you are in great, scientific hands.  What I enjoy about her books is she has clearly spoken with educators and young readers and know how to talk about complex subjects with them.  She breaks tough subjects and ideas into manageable pieces.  Try this "Let's Read and Find Out" title to give students some background on the subject.

Hurricane Watch
Hurricane Watch
By Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Taia Morley

I was excited to see Don Brown's new book was about Hurricane Katrina.  With it being a newer topic, it's great to have information for readers about this event, and to have books written in a variety of formats to give to students.  I enjoy Don Brown's graphic novel formats for his retelling of historical events.  Another benefit of this book is a portion of the sales go to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.
This book gives a brief overview of the origins of Katrina and its timeline leading up to landfall in Louisiana.  As in other Don Brown's books, he doesn't skim over the nitty-gritty details, but he also doesn't give unnecessary details, either.  I appreciate this in books for young readers.  Students need to understand the facts about events, without gory details.  If they don't fully understand historical events, the impact is lost on them.
The organization of the book is important.  Brown gives the date as a heading which helps readers understand not only the timeline of the storm, but of the evacuation and eventual clean-up.
I've read recent fiction to know about some of the details, as well as recall what I saw on the news 10 years ago:  the flooding, looting, levees, people evacuating, people trying to find refuge at the Superdome, the Convention Center.
Things I didn't know:  more than 200 police officers were investigated for leaving their posts, the horrible communication between the federal government, FEMA and the state of Louisiana, how many people evacuated (about 80%) vs. how many people stayed (about 200,000), how so many states in the southern U.S. helped take care of evacuees.  
I thought it was important that while the book covered the atrociousness of the event, it also sprinkled in some of the important things people did for each other during this time.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
by Don Brown

Scholastic's "Discover More" series is a newer series and one I've spotlighted in the past.  Covering relevant topics and interests, it also strives to reach all readers.  A new book in the series is Hurricane Katrina.  This book explains the facts to young readers about the devastation of Katrina without being graphic.  The photographs show pictures of the disaster and includes captions to give additional information.  This would be a book you could use with younger readers, 1st-3rd grade.
A discrepancy I found between this book and Don Brown's is this one said 100,000 people stayed in New Orleans during Katrina.  Brown's states it was 200,000.  

Scholastic Discover More Reader Level 2 by Gail Tuchman
Hurricane Katrina
by Gail Tuchman

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner is a Hurricane Katrina story that talks about just one man - Cornelius Washington.  Known to be an energetic streets and sanitation worker, Cornelius embodied what the spirit of New Orleans was all about - the energy, the magic and the people.  Helping to clean up after the hurricane and get people volunteering by using his energy and spirit was just a small story of how people came together after this act of destruction.

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans
Marvelous Cornelius
by Phil Bildner
Illustrated by John Parra

A non fiction picture book that covers Katrina that I have not been able to get my hands on yet:

Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story
by Caroline Starr Rose

There have also been some great fiction middle grade novels that address this topic.

Another Kind of Hurricane
Another Kind of Hurricane 
by Tamara Ellis Smith

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere 
by Julie T. Lamana

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina
Zane and the Hurricane 
by Rodman Philbrick

One final picture book is

Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival
Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival 
by Manet Wyman Coleman

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SoLSC 8.25.15 Small Summer Things


Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

This weekend I wrote about the wonderful events and days that made up my summer.  You can see it here.  Summer is always full of things you can't do during the busy school year.  When I reflected back on summer, it was the big things that I celebrated   But when I think about summer, it's really the small things that make me happy.

* I make each meal when I need it.  Not the night before.
* I don't need the day ready when I walk out the door at 5:15am for my workout.
* My alarm goes off at 5am for my workouts instead of 4:20am.
* Having more time to workout.
* Taking time to get ready in the morning.  Leisurely showers.  Not rushing.
* I don't need the majority of my blog posts ready over the weekend.  I can write them the night before.  Or the day of.
* Tastee Freeze Sunday Nights
* Voxer messages are left and heard throughout the day instead of on the way to school and on the way home.
* It's ok if a swim meet takes up all weekend.  I have Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday to get things done.
* Sitting on the patio reading a book in the shade.
* Reading a book at the pool.
* Taking afternoon walks.
* Knowing I'm going to wear shorts everyday.

What is your small thing?

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8.24.15

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.

Welcome to end-of-Bookaday-so-I'm-reading-everything-before-school-starts Part 2.  Lots more books.  Last chance for copious amounts of reading!

Last week's reading adventures

I thought about being Brave this school year.  Being brave can look many different ways.  Step out of the box and try something new. Here's the post

Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree
I reviewed Kate Messner's new book "Tree of Wonder".

The Day the Crayons Came Home
I started to add The Day the Crayons Came Home in my Monday post, but it was so long it became its own post.

Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of Seasons
I reviewed a poetry/song book by Margaret Wise Brown Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons and offered some suggestions how to use this book.

I didn't write much over the weekends this summer.  This weekend I looked back at summer and celebrated all that summer was.

Picture Books

Whose Shoe?
Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting
4/5 stars
Eve Bunting and Sergio Ruzzier team up again for another wonderful book for young readers.  Told in rhyme, this story is about a mouse who has found a shoe, who does it belong to?  Perfect for younger classrooms.

I Hate Picture Books!
I Hate Picture Books! by Timothy Young
4/5 stars
My friend, Kristen, told me I had to read this book, and she was right!  For anyone who loves picture books, this is a must read.  You'll laugh out loud, but then your heart will be warmed at the end.  A must read for Nerdy classrooms!

Courage by Bernard Waber
5/5 stars
This one came from a #pb10for10 list.  It's one of those books I just never read - fixed that!  What a beautiful book.  A great one for the beginning of the year.  I think it goes along with my SoLSC post Brave.

Night Animals
Night Animals by Gianna Marino
4/5 stars
I had heard some book love for this one, but didn't really know what to expect.  What I got was a treat.  Laugh out loud moments and beautiful illustrations.  I felt bad for poor little Possum, but he certainly gave me some laughs!

On My Way to the Bath       On My Way to Bed
On My Way to the Bath by Sarah Maizes
On My Way to Bed by Sarah Maizes
Very cute stories about Livi, who has quite the active imagination.  As any adult knows, usually from prior experience, calling a child to stop playing and do something can be difficult.  Livi has a fantastic imagination that calls up many things to do on the way to do that thing she doesn't want to do... take a bath... go to bed.  There is a third book in the series, On My Way to School but it is missing from library currently.

Informational Texts

I got caught up in the "A ____ Is..." series by Dianna Hutts Aston.  Each book is gorgeous but it's the way it's organized stands out to me.  If you want to read my other post about these books, check it out here.

A Nest Is Noisy
A Nest is Noisy
5/5 stars
I love how this book broadens young readers understanding of nests and that it's not just birds that make nests!
Most fascinating fact:  "The temperature of the nest determines the sex of alligators."  What??? That's crazy!

A Rock Is Lively
A Rock is Lively
5/5 stars
Illustrator Sylvia Long is at her best with this one - the rocks look beautiful in her watercolored illustrations.
Most fascinating fact:  Rocks are used to make toothpaste!

Adult Reads

One Plus One
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
4/5 stars
Jojo Moyes is my favorite adult author.  Every book makes me think just a bit more.  My favorite by her was Me Before You and I cannot wait for its sequel next month!  I don't read adult books often, just a few each year.  But these are must reads.  I put this one off last year, I was trying to get caught up on my kidlit, but I made sure it was on my #mustreadin2015 list.  It was a great read, highly recommended!
A favorite part pg. 146 "You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don't quite fit in anywhere.  And then you walk into a room one day, whether it's at university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, 'Ah.  There they are.' And suddenly you feel at home."

Currently Reading

The Thing About Jellyfish
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Oh my gosh, my heart breaks for the main character, Suzy.  It's a quick read and one that will appeal to readers who love heartprint stories.  I love that the main character loves science.  I'm not a science or math person, but I like seeing books that have these girl characters in them.

On Deck

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
then maybe....
Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

I still need to get to The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, but I think it may be a bit heavy for the week school starts.  I promise I'll get to it - it's on my #mustreadin2015 list!

Happy First Week of School!