Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6.01.15

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.

I finally had THAT week!  It was the first Sunday since April that I had time to sit down and get through a HUGE stack of picture books.  I'm highlighting just the best.  Please be sure to visit me on goodreads to see everything I read this week.  And because of lots of reading, there's just a minimal amount of writing.  But definitely check these out!

Picture Books

How to Read a Story
How to Read a Story by Kate Messner
5/5 stars
This was my favorite of the week.  Loved loved loved it.
I read it very quickly at ALAMW this January and loved it.  But to have the time to pour over it and think of the possibilities of it in the classroom and to take in each of the little details Mark Siegel added to the illustrations... Such an amazing book.
If you are a teacher of reading, please please find this book and add it to your August/September rotation!

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray
5/5 stars
This book was beautiful.  The writing was gorgeous, but what made it memorable was Marla Frazee's illustrations.  There were pages that I would love to have as prints.  Our 1st grade does a unit on space and patterns of stars.  This would be a lovely fiction tie-in.  But then you could also use it to talk about imagination or about looking on the bright side of things or being positive or thinking outside of the box or...

This Is Sadie
This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary
5/5 stars
This book has been given a lot of book love from Carrie Gelson and Mr. Schu, which means it's a book I should just go ahead and buy.  So, yes, I did.  Another book to use for imagination or thinking outside of the box... And inferring!  And talk about wanting prints to be framed, oh, there's at least 4 that come to mind right away!  Gorgeous book.

Touch the Brightest Star
Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson
5/5 stars
Author/illustrator of Tap the Magic Tree is back with another interactive book.  This time, a wonderful bedtime story that should be read over and over and over.  I have enjoyed all of the interactive books I've read lately, but this one is special.  Sometimes it just made me go, "ohhhhh!"

Sea Rex
Sea Rex by Molly Idle
4/5 stars
Rex and friends are back.  While I think Tea Rex is my favorite, I love the illustrations in this one.  Maybe it's because we're getting close to summer and I'm pining away for the outside and water, but I reread the book just to see the illustrations.  A couple of times :)

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore
17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill
3/5 stars
This book was humorous and definitely made me laugh - don't staple your brother's hair to the pillow, don't show your underpants by doing a cartwheel, don't dunk the mom toy in your mashed potatoes... But the last page was a bit off setting.  The little girl is apologizing to her mom for doing everything and receiving a hug, but behind her back is the stapler that had been taken away.  So is her apology real?  Change that page and it would've received higher stars.

Interstellar Cinderella
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood
4/5 stars
Go girl power!  We use many different versions of Cinderella, but I like this one for its uniqueness.  I like that Cinderella is a tough cookie and one that works on spaceships instead of donning the beautiful dress.  I like that she doesn't go right for the marriage part at the end.  I like the vocabulary Underwood uses - like naming the pet mouse, Murgatroyd.  The illustrations are different than what I would expect - bold and earth toned.

Informational Picture Books

Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution
Gingerbread for Liberty by Mara Rockliff
4/5 stars
There seems to be more and more picture books that focus on a small moment that is part of a bigger time.  This picture book focuses on a German baker, Christopher Ludwick, who wanted to help his adopted country, the colonies, fight in the American Revolution.  He wasn't the strongest fighter, but he was able to do what he did best to help his country - feed them and use food for bargaining!

Stand Straight, Ella Kate
Stand Straight, Ella Kate by Kate Klise
4/5 stars
I loved this picture book biography about Ella Kate Ewing, a giantess.  Her life was interesting and how she went about living it and the changing view she had about herself definitely made this picture book one I would use again.  I thought by writing it in the first person gave it more voice.

Transitional Picture Books

A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman
4/5 stars
As I mentioned last week, I'm always very excited to find good, transitional chapter books. Well, this one has such fun tongue-in-cheek humor, that will make it fun to use as a read aloud, or for those kids who appreciate a witty book.  I'm thrilled this will be part of a series.  I will be looking for the next installation fall of 2016!

Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split
Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split by Anica Mrose Rissi
4/5 stars
This is a tricky book because it's a bit more than a transitional chapter book, but I wouldn't call it middle grade.  Full chapters and a longer story, but this book will appeal to the younger reader.  This is a great books for those kids who are ready for longer books, but need just a bit more stamina in order to read middle grade books.
I liked this book, I loved the illustrations, but I had a hard time with how mean Sadie was to Anna.  I liked how positive Anna was, even when things weren't going her way.  She will be a good role model for young kids.

Middle Grade

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks
Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise
3/5 stars
This is the second Kate Klise book, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise on my list today.
I read this book because it is part of our 2016 IL Bluestem Choice Awards list.
This book is told entirely in letters.  The letters go back and forth between administrators, teachers, secretary and students from a school and the owner of a fountain company.  It's funny, the illustrations are gorgeous and the format is different.

Currently Reading

Saint Anything
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
This is the first Dessen book I've read in awhile, but it reminds me of why I've read them in the first place.  They are entertaining, real and good stories.  
I like this part:  "Once you realized this, experienced something that made it crystal clear, you couldn't forget it.  Like a face.  Or a name.  However you first learn that truth, once it's with you, it never really goes away." pg. 75

On Deck

Rump by Liesl Shutoff - it's my June re-read challenge book!
The Great Good Summer by Liz Garton Scanlon - my first Summer Break 2015 read
Rules by Cynthia Lord - a #mustreadin2015 book!

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5.25.15

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.

It was a quiet, quiet reading week!  That's ok, #bookaday is about 2 weeks away and I'll be making up for lost time!

Middle Grade

Masterminds (Masterminds #1)
Masterminds by Gordan Korman
5/5 stars
I LOVED this book.  As an adult reader, I've been a fan of Dan Brown and James Rollins, for their fast paced books, clever turns, and that need to keep reading.  Korman did an excellent job of capturing that need to read with his newest book, Masterminds.  It was always hard to put down and I was surprised at many of the twists and turns.  I will love being able to tell kids - did you like this book?  Great, because when you're an adult, there will be more books just like this that will keep you reading!  
Highly recommended for grades 4th and up.  I think the mature 3rd grade reader, one who can keep track of different view points, will be able to keep up with the book.
This book is one I will definitely book talk for summer reading!

Transitional Chapter Books

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter
4/5 stars
I love finding new transitional chapter books.  They aren't many of them and many of them are so poorly written, or too formulaic, to enjoy.
Not this one, this book will keep kids questioning, laughing and excited for the character.  We meet Piper, who is a second grader who is clearly sad about her older brother not being there - but where is he?  Why is he gone?  Piper wears his old earmuffs to help her feel closer to him, but not everyone, including a rather impatient teacher, agrees Piper should be wearing them.  Feeling especially down one morning, Piper hides in a tree, but a wise neighbor spots her and helps Piper discover the tree has a special secret of its own.
This book is perfect in 1st through 3rd grade.  Students who are ready for chapter books, but don't have the stamina for long chapters and more challenging story lines, will feel very comfortable with Piper.  
Fans of Clementine, Judy Moody and Lulu will find a similar character in Piper.
I'm thrilled this will be a chapter book series.  Look for books one and two on August 4th!

Adult Read

The Precious One
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
5/5 stars
I love de los Santos' writing.  It's poetic and always makes me pause and think about what was said.  This book was no exception.
Told in two voices, the plot line is carried on through the book, seen by two different eyes, by the two sisters, Taisy and Willow.  They give us their story and show us what it's like to be two sisters, raised by the same man, but in very different ways.  The parts that seem inevitable are told in such an interesting way, it's like you never saw it coming.
If you're looking for an adult read this summer, try this one out!

Currently Reading

The 100-Year-Old Secret (The Sherlock Files #1)
The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett
This book is on our IL Bluestem List.  Looks like an interesting book, we'll see how it goes!

After that, I have a few library books to read.  Lots to get through!
Hope you enjoy your long weekend and found time to read!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 5.20.15


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!

I've had many conversations and I've written here and there about the importance of using picture books in the upper elementary classrooms.  I've heard many people tell students they need to read books that are their "appropriate level" and they should be reading a chapter book.  I understand that when students are older, chapter books increase their reading stamina and allows them to experience more rigorous concepts and story lines.  But by using picture books as mentor texts, teachers can show how to think deeply about a story, dig into the message of the story, and explore how an author crafted the story.

I've recently come across two picture books that are perfect for upper elementary grades.  They go more into depth with the details and information, and are long enough to require the reader to hold onto thoughts over the course of the story.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton

Chris Barton is the author that gave us the Sibert Honor book The Day-Glo Brothers a few years ago.  He's back, this time writing about John Roy Lynch, the man who went from slave to U.S. Congressman during a time of political unrest - right after the Emancipation of slaves.  Wonderful narrative and great backmatter in author's notes and timeline.  I love how the title is "The Amazing Age"... it really says a lot since the time period is extremely important to this story.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France
by Mara Rockliff

Absolutely love this book.  Use it as a mentor text to show the scientific process in action.  Use it to show how a narrative text tells a story through words and pictures and how they come together to give the reader the most amount of information.  Use it to show how a biography can depict a moment in time instead of the entire life of the subject.
This book was a beautiful marriage between the author and illustrator.  Mara Rockliff tells a fascinating story but Iacopo Bruno's illustrations are gorgeous and one you want to go back and take another look at.  This is a book I definitely want to own.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5.18.15

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.

That first week back after vacation is always a tough one to get caught up on.  Add being gone at swim meets all weekend, well, reading slowed down, just a bit!
Here's what jumped out of the stacks this week:

Picture Books

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
5/5 stars
I love books that make me laugh.  They are so easy to "sell" to students.

And Then It's Spring
and then it's spring by Julie Fogliano
4/5 stars
This is a great book to pair with Kate Messner's Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt book.  I passed this one along to our 2nd grade team who does a unit on plants and seeds.

Templeton Gets His Wish
Templeton Gets His Wish by Greg Pizzoli
4/5 stars
Greg Pizzoli is masterful at teaching strong central messages, using accessible text.  I love using his books to spark wonderful conversations.

Inside This Book: (are three books).
Inside This Book (are three books) by Barney Saltzberg
3/5 stars
Cute book that has 3 siblings showing the books they published, each one after the other.  Could be used as a mentor text for Writer's Workshop!


Dogku by Andrew Clements
4/5 stars
Loved this entire book told in haiku.  The illustrations are a stand out too!

Graphic Novel

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
Hidden by Loic Dauvillier
4/5 stars
I feel the more I read, the more I learn about history.  The German purge of people of Jewish descent is widely known.  However, I don't remember reading as much about the same thing happening in France.  I feel like I've just recently read about this in different books.  
This is a great book to use in a classroom when discussing this time period.  I love that the graphic novel is being used as a format to teach some important events - this format seems to reach more readers.

Middle Grade

Wish Girl
Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin
5/5 stars
Oh my gosh.  How I loved this book.  It grabbed my heart and Did. Not. Let. Go.  
First of all, you will love Peter and Annie.  They both are fighting for something that just blows you away.
Secondly, you will love the setting.  The Hill Valley.  Or is it a character?  I think that would be a wonderful debate to have.
This book would make a wonderful read aloud.  If it's not already on your list, please add it!

Currently Reading

The Precious One
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
Yes, an adult book!
I've enjoyed her other books, her command of language is amazing.  This one started out slow for me, but there are just too many times I read something, a line, that just makes me stop and amaze at her writing ability.  


Masterminds by Gordan Korman

What are you reading?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Celebrate This Week 5.16.15

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

It's been awhile since I've posted a Saturday celebration!  So much to celebrate, but thinking back to the past two weeks...

Celebration #1 - a great family trip
We've recently returned from a wonderful family trip to Disney World.  We were so fortunate this time to go with my parents and my sister's family.  Sometimes family vacations can get a little crazy, but this one was just right.  Everyone had fun, the weather was amazing, and we had time to be together.
My husband and I ran the Expedition Everest Challenge together.  My daughter read the Harry Potter series this year, so being able to take her to Universal Studios to see Diagon Alley and Hogwarts was really fun!  Here are some fun pictures:

Getting ready for our big race - a nighttime run through the Animal Kingdom!

I thought this was rather appropriate!

Can you spot DeVine lurking in the trees behind us? 
She's about a thumbnail above my daughter's head :)

Walking into Diagon Alley!

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

Celebration #2 - a great doctor visit
Our trips to Florida generally involve a doctor's visit for my daughter.  Her orthopedic doctor is in West Palm Beach and it's a (long) day trip to see him.  This time it was to plan for her upcoming lengthening.  What I love about Dr. Paley is his vision.  His mind is always working and he sees new possibilities that other doctors don't see.  He made a new plan for my daughter.  She has to have a quick, minor outpatient surgery this summer, but it should pave the way for her to have an "easier" lengthening next summer.  Fingers are crossed and we are very hopeful.  

Celebration #3 - reading and books
I love the anticipation of summer because it means more reading time ahead.  As we end the school year, we're looking to find ways to make sure our students are excited about summer reading and have reading plans in place.  At the end of the year, many schools have "Field Days".  Time for kids to engage in some fun, (hopefully) outdoor games.  Our P.E. teachers work hard at planning some great activities that get kids moving.  But our bodies aren't the only things that move over the summer - we want our brains moving, too!  This year, our media specialist has enlisted the help of my colleague and me, and we've been planning some ways to get summer reading plans in place for our students as part of our "Move It" Days.  On one particular day, students will rotate through stations.  One will be a peer book talk station.  Each student will bring a favorite book to book talk with their peers.  Every student will have a special page to write down some book ideas that will become their summer TBR list.  Another station will be run by me.  My plan was to book talk some books I've read and books that are coming out this summer.  After seeing Mr. Schu's post about his presentation this week in New Hampshire about the Best Books of 2015 (so far), has me thinking about restructuring my presentation to be something similar.  Of course, I don't have all of his ARCs (bummer), but I've read quite a bit, and I know some kids have not seen some of these books.  I'm really excited to have time to talk about these books, and tell them about upcoming books.  Our final station will be my colleague, and she is going to share some book trailers.  We know that visual piece can be what hooks kids.  I think everyone (and I'm hoping some teachers, too) will be going home with some great summer TBR lists!

Hope you're finding time to celebrate this weekend!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5.11.15

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.

Instead of my normal reading - lots and lots of picture books - this time I have lots of middle grade. I was on vacation at Disney World last week (I waved 'hi' to you Kellee!) and got lots of reading done - at the pool or in line waiting to go on a ride. So glad to have the Kindle app!

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
5/5 stars
In my mind, this book cements Pam Munoz Ryan as a master storyteller. The way she was able to weave folklore and historical fiction into multiple story lines, was AMAZING. Each story could be told as a separate book, but the real magic is when the stories are woven together. 
The book certainly is lengthy. However, the font is larger and the margins are big. I think the size of  this book makes sense, because it feels like an epic tome. I don't see this book reaching as wide of an audience as some books, but those who read it, will be touched. Hopefully those readers talk and talk and talk about it to their peers!

Circus Mirandus
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
5/5 stars
The mix of heartprint story and fantasy was just beautiful. Gorgeous writing. 
The book started slowly for me. I was afraid that the hype had been too much. But then it took off and I couldn't put it down. 
This book is a must reread for me. Since it was an ARC, the final artwork wasn't done. I can't wait to see it. 
This book comes out June 2. Be sure that it's on your list. 

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack by Liesl Shurtliff
5/5 stars
Rump was a favorite from last year. Jack will be a favorite for this year. In Rump, the character was going on a quest to find his name, to find his story. In Jack, the story is moved forward by the plot - Jack trying to find his papa in the land of giants. But it's the character development of Jack that made me fall in love with the book.  I loved Jack's outlook - he wasn't afraid to try but had enough self-doubt that made his crazy ideas seem believable. 

Umbrella Summer
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
4/5 stars
My first Lisa Graff book was Absolutely Almost. My second was The Thing About Georgie. Both had such authentic kid voices. Albie and Georgie had concerns that were real and struck a chord with readers. This book was no exception. Your heart broke for Annie and her family. As the outsider looking in, you could see her family breaking and not healing. But the book takes a turn and ends up being such a great book to show the power of healing. Not my favorite Graff book, but it was still very good. I'm anxious to read Lost in the Sun soon!

Return to Augie Hobble
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
3/5 stars
I want to start out by saying I think this book has an audience. I just didn't care for the story. For me, it was like Neil Gaiman's Fortunately, the Milk. Not a book that I enjoyed but one that appealed to many other readers (enough so that it ended up on the IL Bluestem Choice Awards list). 
I think this book is going to appeal to those readers who enjoy the format of the Wimpy Kid books but are ready for a more sophisticated read. Throw in some folklore and paranormal and you have yourself a story that has various threads that all end up being pulled and woven together. 

Product Details
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
4/5 stars
LOVED this book. You're going to remember this teacher - Mr. Acevedo has a style that teachers will recognize. Clearly Mr. Acevedo has read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. A teacher who cares more about authentic teaching than test scores. A teacher that makes sure there is choice in deciding what you are going to read. A teacher who believes in the power of the read aloud. Throw in a little basketball and a great friendship and you have a fabulous story. It doesn't quite have the heart as LMH's Fish in a Tree, but it is still a story I recommend for all teachers. 
I think this book is a great addition for the 3-5 classroom. Watch for it on Aug 18. 

Isle of the Lost
Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz
3/5 stars
This book is about the children of the Disney Villains.  I am a huge Disney fan, especially of the villains!  When I bought it, I thought it was going to be a new series and I was excited.  It sounds like it could be a series, but what it really is is a prequel for the Disney Channel TV movie The Descendants, coming out this summer.  That made it a little commercial for me.
The story is good, not great.  Entertaining, if you have the time.  I liked the little Disney insides.  I will probably read more if there are sequels.  It was fun reading it while in Disney!
I was also a little surprised at some of the more mature references.  Carlos, the son of Cruella de Vil, has a party while mom is away and hard cider is snuck in to the party.  While that went right over the head of my 4th grader, I don't think it was necessary for the story.  The de Vils also live in Hell Hall.  Why throw in the word hell?  Not necessary in my opinion.

Kristy's Great Idea: Full Color Edition (The Babysitters Club Graphix, #1)
Kristy's Big Idea:  Babysitter's Club #1 by Raina Telgemeier
5/5 stars
So thrilled Raina is reissuing these graphic novels.  I love that a new generation will get to experience the Babysitter's Club!

Currently Reading

Wish Girl
Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin

I have many books on deck, but I have some library books to get to first!  Happy Reading this week!