Tuesday, May 31, 2016

review of The Distance to Home 5.31.16

Sometimes we look for books to heal us.  Sometimes we look for books that we can find ourselves in.  Sometimes we look for books to teach us something new.  But we always want to get lost in the story.  

However you approach this book, it's one that you will get lost in.  It's a book that might help the right reader.  It's a book that tells us how someone might heal.  It's a book that helps us understand.  It's a book that I would have loved as a kid.  It's a book I loved as an adult.  It's a book I can't wait to pass on to readers today.

The Distance To Home
The Distance to Home
by Jenn Bishop
published by Alfred A. Knopf
June 28, 2016

Goodreads summary:
Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley. 

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

As a teacher, I can find great things about this story:

* I loved the alternating chapters.  Often we see alternating chapters told in different voices so we get different perspectives.  This time each chapter is told in an alternating period of time - one the summer before the accident, one the summer after.  The voice of Quinnen is remarkably different and I love seeing the story and character development through the writing and organization.

* This story has a great middle grade feel.  When dealing with a heavy subject, I find some middle grade stories go so deep into the development of the "event", that it loses an authentic kid voice.  This audience of this book is a middle grade reader - keep it real!

* I love how baseball is infused into the story.  Quinnen's passion is for sports, particularly baseball.  We see Quinnen's world gets rocked by this horrible accident and her world falls apart.  I love that baseball is a piece that helps her bring it back together.

* The characters in the story are very real.  Each one adds a piece to the storyline.  They are flawed characters but they each own up to it and help Quinnen change and grow.  This would be a great book to study the development of Quinnen's character and how her relationships with the secondary characters shape that development.

As a reader, I can tell you:

* actually, I've told you enough.  I'm going to leave you with the advice to make sure this is on your summer TBR list.  Enjoy it, then enjoy getting it in the hands of readers this fall.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Every Single Second - a review 5.19.16

We live in a time that we have constant worries on our minds.  We live in a time that some of those worries are big deals.  Big questions.  Big concerns.  And if we have them in our lives, you know younger children are trying to grapple with some of these big worries in their own way.  Tricia Springstubb writes a story where her young characters are trying to move through the trials and tribulations of middle grade friendships, yet also deal with adult sized worries in their own way.

Every Single Second
Every Single Second
by Tricia Springstubb
published by Balzer and Bray
publishing June 7, 2016

Every Single Second is told in alternating chapters, going from "now" to "then".  We meet Nella, our main character, and her large family.  In the "then" chapters we learn how Nella and Angela became "secret sisters".  How Nella enjoyed being with Angela and her big brother, who was also their protector, Anthony.  How being with them was an escape from her large family where other than her mom, Nella is the only girl.  As the chapters go on, we learn that Angela's family is far from perfect - her father is a war vet that has undiagnosed PTSD and her mom has deserted the family.  Anthony is the family member that is there for Angela, and therefore Nella.  Nella tries to escape the craziness of her family - both at home and when she has to be with her great-grandmother, Nonni - by hanging out with Angela and Anthony as much as possible.  But once Nella learns a big family secret, instead of it bringing her closer to Angela, it starts to drive them apart.

Enter the "now" chapters, where Nella is friends with Clem, someone who is about as opposite of Angela as can be.  Clem is anxiously counting down to the "leap second", the extra second that is being added to the world clock.  But how fast is a second?  What decisions can be made in a second?  Can you ever take back a decision that is made in a second?  Those questions are asked as Nella's worlds collide in a moment when everything goes wrong.  The big current issue of racism, is explored but on a middle grade level.

This is a story about family and friendship.  Religion is discussed.  Big issues explored. Important questions asked.  Readers who are looking for realistic fiction that looks to answer  some big questions will enjoy this book.  I applaud Tricia Springstubb for attacking tough subjects for middle grade readers.  This book will be important for kids.  I hope discussions occur as a result.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 5.18.16 - A Place for Frogs

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

Image result for a place for frogs melissa stewart
A Place For Frogs
written by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Higgins Bond
published by Peachtree Publishers

Peachtree Publishers has rereleased Melissa Stewart's book A Place for Frogs.  This book is part of a series Stewart has about different animals, their habitats and the effects animals have on the habitats.  This is a fantastic series that has many uses in your classroom.  Here are a few ideas: 

Using the CONTENT
  • 2nd grade science standards have students comparing habitats and the life in them.  This book and others in the series would be perfect to use in this unit!
  • 3rd grade science standards have students looking at environment changes and how animals may have to change in order to survive, as well as how animals adapt in particular environments.  Throughout the book Stewart talks about environmental changes that help, or hurt, the animals ability to "live and grow".  
  • If you're doing a unit about Earth Day this April this book and series would be a great addition!  The effects of human decisions on the environment is making changes to animals, plants, and life cycles.  Find a book or two in the series that features creatures that live in your area.  What are things you can do to help the animals in your local environment?
  • Great mentor text to use to show cause/effect text structure.  Why do you think Stewart made that decision when writing the book?  How does it help you understand the information?
  • Stewart adds sidebars to the pages.  How does that add to your understanding of the main text?
  • Note the end pages.  What information do you get in the maps?
Make sure you visit Melissa Stewart's blog here where she talks a little bit more about the changes that were made in the updated book.  It's so interesting to hear how much our environment and habitats really do change!

Check on Melissa's Pinterest page here for great nonfiction thoughts and ideas.

And visit her blog here.

Thank you to Peachtree Publishers for the review copy!

Monday, May 16, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5.16.16

IMWAYR 2015 logo

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

I celebrated our week 3 of my daughter's limb lengthening journey this weekend.

Do you do a unit on empathy?  "Mr. Particular" would be a book to add to your collection!

I have 2 new middle grade books for your TBR lists!  The Sleepover releases this week and Save Me a Seat is already out.  Make sure you read them and get them into students' hands!

I love Chris Bartons' new nonfiction picture book - "Whoosh" - his newest collaboration with illustrator Don Tate.  So many uses for this book, it's one you will want for your library!

Picture Books

Can I Play Too? (Elephant & Piggie, #12)
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

5/5 stars
So, Elephant and Piggie has seen the end of its series.  But, the "good" thing is I have not read all the books!  This summer I'm going through and finding all of the ones I've missed.
As always, this one made me laugh out loud.  

Finding Wild
Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

4/5 stars
Thanks to Elly Swartz (upcoming Finding Perfect) for telling me about this one!
It is gorgeous.  
Use the text to teach metaphor, to teach the big ideas of looking beyond the surface for something, to keep trying to find what you're looking for, to look at things with new perspectives.
And I love Abigail Halpin's art!  It is stunning!

A Fire Truck Named Red
A Fire Truck Named Red by Randall de Seve
5/5 stars
I had to buy this book after reading last week's Nerdy post.  If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.
Just like de Seve writes in it, picture books are important for all ages.  And if you don't believe that, you need to read Sergio Ruzzier's Nerdy post!  This book looks like it's for younger kids.  And younger kids will love the story.  They will get lost in the story, going back in time to see how Papa would fight fires with his trusty firetruck, Red.  But taking it further, it's older kids who will understand some of the rich themes in this book.  The discussions about wanting something new, but seeing the rich past in something old.  The conversations that can be had about the power of imagination.  This book is a must have for so many age levels.  Make sure this book is on your to-buy list!

Thunder Boy Jr.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
5/5 stars
I had held off purchasing this book until I had gotten it from the library.  But after seeing so many positive reviews, and the library here being so slow in getting books into circulation, I bit the bullet and ordered it, sight unseen.
Love it.  When I read this book, I read it that this is a story about a child who is questioning his name - does it make him who he is?  He thinks about what he knows about himself.  I think this is a question that is obviously very self-reflective, but one we should make students think about more often.  Who are they?  What makes them unique?  What do they know about themselves.  Personal identity is something that many people hide from and question.  This book may be one that brings the discussion out, or at least be reflective upon.
As I was waiting for this book to arrive, I happened upon Debbie Reese's posts about this book here and here.  I think they are important to read and be reflective upon based on recent events.
Yuyi Morales stuns with her illustrations, again, but in my opinion, these are my favorite.  Just found another book that is going in the Mock Caldecott unit...

Transitional Chapter Books

Puppy Pirates #4: Sea Sick
Puppy Pirates: Sea Sick by Erin Soderberg

4/5 stars
Do you teach K-4th grade?  This is a series that is a must have!  Readers of all levels appreciate the stories in this series.  I've read all four and I think each one has gotten better than the one before.


Guess Who, Haiku
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell
4/5 stars
It's the second book illustrated by Bob Shea in my pile (first one was Fire Truck).
I think this is a great book to use with the PreK/Kg crowd!  A fun introduction to the haiku format, the easy to solve riddles will keep young readers engaged and wanting to read more.  I like that the author included information in the back.

Middle Grade

A Tangle of Knots
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
5/5 stars
It's a book I've had on my shelf for a really long time.  Glad I finally got to it.
The way the threads of the story were woven together - wonderful writing!  I wonder how younger readers will be able to navigate the multiple perspectives.  It took me awhile to keep everyone straight!

Young Adult

The Memory of Things
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

5/5 stars
If I could give this book more stars, I would.  This book cements Gae Polisner as an extremely talented and gifted writer.  
As Gae tells you in the author's notes, this book is a coming of age story that really is about hope.  
Yes, the setting is 9.11.
For most teenage readers, they weren't born, or were mere babies themselves when 9.11 took place.  For them, this is historical fiction.  This book takes the raw emotions, the sights, the smells and most of all, the fear from that day, and brings the setting to the forefront of the story.  
It's not the story.  This story takes place during 9.11 and the events are impacted by 9.11, but it's a story about two teenagers who are each trying to figure out who they are in this world.  Both are dealing with different tragedies when their lives intersect with each other.
Written in different formats when the perspective changes, really draws you into the story, but also marvel at the writing style.
Do not miss this book.  So glad I was able to get a copy from NetGalley!

Currently Reading

Glass Sword (Red Queen, #2)
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
I had to take a little break from my pile of reading to start this one.  I've got a friend hooked on the first book and she's ready for this one.  Time to pass it along!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Celebrate This Week! 5.14.16 Week 3

It's always good to end the week on a positive note.  Sometimes we concentrate on the negatives.  We have a choice.  Choose positive.  Choose to celebrate.  I will be joining Ruth Ayres and her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week.  Check out all the other celebrations HERE

Thanks for checking in for week 3 of my daughter's limb lengthening journey!  Here are thing things we're celebrating this week!

Celebration #1:  SWIMMING!
My daughter would absolutely tell you, hands down, the best thing this week was getting back into the pool.  Her incision sites have closed, and she's allowed to submerge!  She's gotten into the community pool that is (literally) across the street from us.  She's played and splashed and swam and it's been great!  She has her independence back when she's in the water and I know that's a good feeling for her.  Up next:  back to swim team practice!

Celebration #2:  getting wiser
When kids go through limb lengthening, they tend to lose range of motion in the knee.  With everything in the leg stretching and growing longer, muscles don't want to bend as much.  The hour of PT is all spent on getting the knee ready to bend.  The last few minutes of PT is by far, the hardest part of a limb lengthening patient's day.  That's when they have to do the "big bends".  Typically they are done lying on the stomach with the therapist bending the patient's knee.  My daughter was born with limited range of motion in her knee, so the most she bends is about 90 degrees.  Most of us can easily lie on our stomach and bend at the knee.  For my daughter, this is very difficult.  She has had 2 other limb lengthening surgeries.  Doing the big bends were torture.  As always, she still has to so them in this round of lengthening.  But earlier this week she said to me, "bends aren't as bad in this type of fixator."  Having that mentality is HUGE!  She is willing to put up the 30 seconds of torture for 5 bends, 3x/day.  She breathes through them, watches the stopwatch on my phone, even helps push through them instead of fighting them.  What a difference that bit of knowledge has been.

Celebration #3:  local fauna
One of the things I love about being in Florida is the local fauna.  Obviously Florida has a different climate than Illinois and therefore has some different flowers and greenery.  I love seeing the new plants outside!

Celebration #4:  Rocco's Tacos
We went to our first Taco Tuesday at Rocco's this week!  Rocco's is a great Mexican restaurant in Florida.  I like their spicy chips and the table side guacamole is the best I've had.  Love their shrimp tacos!

Celebration #5:  NO medicines!
Knock on wood, right now K is medicine free!  She took her last round of antibiotics this week and she's done with her pain meds.  Positive thoughts that she stays this way!

Thanks for checking in!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Spotlight Friday: Mr. Particular blog tour 5.13.16

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!

Many of you do a unit on empathy.  I have a new book for you to add to your collection.  This book is one to stop and talk about as you read. 

Mr. Particular by Jason  Kirschner
Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion!
written and illustrated by Jason Kirschner
published by Sterling Children's Books

Goodreads summary:
Meet Mr. Particular—the world’s choosiest champion! This superhero’s super picky: he says NO to squishy mud, gross green things, tucked-in shirts, humming, and anything with coconut. But, when his friends in the “Super-Duper Group” finally get fed up with his fussiness, can Mr. Particular prove that even the super-squeamish can save the day?

Here are questions you can use to guide discussions as you read:

Beginning of the book
  • talk to you students about what the word "particular" means.  What do they think?
  • read a few pages and stop at the layout where Mr. Particular outlines the things he does not care for?  Knowing his preferences, what do students think "particular" means now?  Did it match their prior understanding?
  • Have a discussion about Mr. Particular.  What do they notice about him?
  • After you read a few more pages, how are the things that Mr. Particular is particular about affecting his friendships?
  • Do you think his friends reacted in an appropriate way?
Middle of the book
  • How are the things that Mr. Particular is particular about affecting his friendships?
  • Do you think his friends reacted in an appropriate way?
  • Stop and talk about empathy.  What is it?  Are Mr. Particular friends showing empathy?
  • How could his friends change the situation and show empathy?
  • Do you think Mr. Particular can change his ways?
End of the book
  • How was Mr. Particular able to conquer his fear?
  • Do you think he'll be able to conquer both of the "Big 2"?

This book is sure to have some great conversations in your class - being empathetic, caring friends and what that does for a community!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2 new middle grade books - Save Me a Seat/The Sleepover

Save Me a Seat
Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Books told in different voices offer up something to the reader - different perspectives.  It can make the reader learn something new about a character.  Save Me a Seat is a perfect middle grade novel because the chapters are told in two different voices in alternating chapters.  Adding in more voices can end up being too challenging for readers to remember the different characteristics.  The two voices in this novel are contrastingly different, yet they both change enough to see each other's side.
There are two things I love about this book.
One, is the tagline.  On the back of the book it says, "A new friend could be sitting right next to you."  Can you imagine if kids today grew up with that in their mind?  Keeping their minds open to everyone around them?
Second is the line, "Assumptions are often wrong." pg. 85.  Something else we do, often without meaning to, is make assumptions about others.  
Stop making assumptions.  Keep your mind open.  Make a friend.

Goodreads summary:
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.

Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.

Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.

Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

The Sleepover
The Sleepover
by Jen Malone

One of my favorite things is finding books that I know kids are going to love.  Books that will make them fall into the story and not stop reading.  Books that make them want to talk about reading.  Books that reach a wide range of kids.  I'm excited to say I found one.  Jan Malone's The Sleepover is a fun, non-stop adventure that will have kids laughing and reading in disbelief as one event after another in the story keeps going wrong.  Full of things that, we hope, don't really happen to our children, it's those adventures that will keep kids reading.  Things that they (hopefully) would not dare to do, but want to read about.
This book has been compared to the movie The Hangover and I can see why.  Definitely a kids' version - and they will love it!

Goodreads Summary:
Though she’s never done it before, twelve-year-old Meghan is determined to make it through lights-out at her best friend’s sleepover. She’s also ready to have The. Best. Night. Ever. and her friends Paige and Anna Marie are happy to bring on the fun. There will be miles of junk food, stacks of crazy-scary horror movies, and hours of karaoke smack-downs! Not even the last-minute addition of Anna Marie’s socially awkward soon-to-be stepsister Veronica can dampen their spirits.

But nothing prepares them for the scene that greets them the next morning. The basement is a disaster, Meghan’s left eyebrow has been shaved off and she somehow has the Class Bad Boy’s hoodie, plus there’s a slew of baby chicks in the bathtub! Worst of all, Anna Marie is missing.

Now the remaining girls have to piece together what happened the night before. There’s just one teeny, tiny problem: None of them can remember anything past the two-bit act by the hypnotist Veronica hired as the party’s entertainer.

Can they find Anna Marie and pull off the ultimate save-face . . . all before parent pick-up time? The clock is ticking, the clues are getting weirder and weirder, and only one thing is certain: last night got a whole lot zanier than games of Truth or Dare.

Look for The Sleepover on Tuesday, May 17th.

Hope you found a book or two to add to your collection!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 5.11.16 Super Soakers!

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

Oh, super soakers.  When I hear about them, I cannot help but think of my own super soaker story.  I was 16 years old.  Maybe 17.  And super soakers had become THE toy.  And you know when a toy is the IT toy... lines, calling the stores to see if a shipment arrived, chaos.  Well, the Sunday toy advertisement had come out, I called the store and... they had them!  I was so excited.  I knew just what I wanted to do - I would be a great big sister and go get them for my brother and me to play with.  No one else was home, but that wasn't a problem.  I had the keys to the car and it was in the garage.  I was absolutely giddy!  I was going to do something good and we would have so much fun.  Got in the car and it was time to go.  Problem is, you're supposed to open the garage door before you back out.  I have no idea how I did that.  But that sound of the car hitting the closed garage door is something that is forever ingrained in my mind.  And when you put a dent like that in the garage door, well, opening it and closing it doesn't quite work right.  Needless to say, I did not go get a super soaker that day.  And from that moment on, whenever I see a super soaker, a dented garage door comes to mind.  And maybe a big punishment.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
written by Chris Barton
illustrated by Don Tate
published by Charlesbridge

When I saw Chris Barton's new book, I knew it was one I needed to get just because of the childhood memories associated with the super soaker.  And seeing that this was another collaboration between Chris and illustrator Don Tate, (if you haven't seen their The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, be sure to check it out now!) it gave me one more reason to own this book.

Summary from Amazon:
A cool idea with a big splash
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.
A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.

Recently, the Makerspace movement is getting a good push.  Makerspace, defined as a DIY space where people gather to create, invent and learn, has become popular in libraries and classrooms.  There were several times when I stopped and marked pages or sentences that reminded me of the Makerspace ideals.  What a perfect book to use when talking about what the spirit of Makerspace is all about.  Barton writes, "Lonnie loved building and creating.  Ideas for inventions just kept on flowing."  And then later the phrases "facing challenges, solving problems, building things" are used.  Perfect phrases for Makerspace!

Image result for whoosh lonnie johnson's super-soaking stream of inventions

Looks like a Makerspace area was all ready for young Lonnie!

What a great book to use when talking about perseverance.  Early on in the book it talks about an invention that Lonnie created that didn't achieve success right away, in fact it was years before he got it right!  He kept tinkering with the invention until it did.  Success doesn't happen overnight.  I liked that a layout shows how Lonnie's sound system and electronics were great at parties, but while he was working the electronics during these parties, he was also studying.  Those who go above and beyond and add extra effort into their work over time can get results!  But as he found out, it takes time.  On one page, Barton says "his dream had been challenged."  I really like the way that is worded.  His dream wasn't over just because someone, or some test, said no.  His dream was just challenged.  But he came to learn from these challenges.  In fact, Lonnie was working on a solution to another  problem when he finally came up with the super soaker!  He learned that new ideas can come from failed ideas, or ideas that didn't work!

One of my favorite parts is reading about the support he had from his parents.  Even when setting accidental fires in the house, his mom just told him to go outside, not to stop!

Barton includes an author's note at the end that gives us a little more information about what Lonnie Johnson is doing today and the way he does things.  In fact, Barton writes in the author's note to first get permission, then go take things apart so you can see how they work.  Because that is how Lonnie Johnson would do things.  

Go create!