Friday, September 30, 2016

Spotlight Friday: author visits and their books 9.30.16

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!

A couple of years ago I saw for myself the value of author interaction with students.  The wide eye disbelief that an author would actually talk to them!  We talk about rock star status and for the students, this cemented it.  Whether it was an author responding to a tweet, and author skyping, an author responding to a letter, or an actual author visit, students at our school have a lot of love and respect for books and the work an author does.

Students at our school were fortunate enough to interact with a couple of authors within the first month of school.

Our 1st through 3rd graders got to enjoy the company of author Andrea Beaty, courtesy of a local indie bookstore, The Bookstall in Winnetka, IL.  Andrea shared secrets about her books, talked about ideas - both big and small details - and about the process of writing.  Even though teachers talk about the writing process, it becomes so real when it's an author telling them they go through it as well.

Our students were lucky to hear Andrea read her newest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  It's always magical hearing the author read their own words.  Ada, a classmate of Iggy and Rosie, gets to star in her own book.  I love that Ada is a scientist - Andrea has done an amazing job showing girls can be strong is STEM too!  Andrea shared details that illustrator David Roberts added in - look at book titles, block details and see if you an spot characters/items from the other two books.  Andrea's rhymes are metered perfectly and flow easily as you read them.

I know our students will be excited every time they see an Andrea Beaty book at the library or bookstore.  And maybe they'll think just a bit more how they are following in an author's footsteps as they go through the writing process.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Ada Twist, Scientist
written by Andrea Beaty
illustrated by David Roberts
published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

A 4th grade class also had the opportunity to Skype with author Josh Funk.  What started with some tweets about Talk Like a Pirate Day, led to a wonderful Skype session.  Josh answered many questions, and what I love about the question and answer session is these are the questions students really want to know about authors.  You can see them thinking about the answers on their little faces.  While I know these Skype visits are fantastic, the real teaching magic happens after the call is over.  Their teacher led them through a discussion of what they had learned from Josh, or something that really made them think.  One of the things Josh talked about is how stories are everywhere.  When kids think about writing, they think about pen and paper, maybe a computer or tablet.  The finished product is usually a book or something their teacher wanted them to write.  The best food for thought response Josh gave was that video games are also stories.  You could visibly see the light bulbs go on in their minds!

The students enjoyed a wonderful shared reading of Pirasaurs by their talented teacher, while Josh shared the book on screen.  Now, kids are so excited to get their hands on Josh's next book Dear Dragon.  Personally, it's my favorite of his three published books.  I fell in love with it years ago when I saw the mock-up and the finished product is even more beautiful.  There are so many ways of using it as a mentor text - writing, perspective, being positive about differences.  And just like Andrea Beaty's books, the metered rhyme is perfect.

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk
Dear Dragon
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo
published by Viking Books

I hope you've been able to set up Skype visits, author visits or even tweet or write to an author.  The benefits are fantastic.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Round Up of new Young Adult, Realistic Fiction 9.29.16

A round up of some amazing new Young Adult books!  

I read young adult sparingly.  Since I don't use it in my teaching or with the educators I work with, I don't always make the time for it.  But every so often I hear about a book.  Or it's an author I enjoy.  Or it comes highly recommended by someone I know.

The way I look at it, although I don't use young adult books in my teaching, the students at my school do grow up.  And they do come back and visit, when their younger siblings are at school, on special community days.  It's nice to continue book conversations with them, just on a different level.

Here are some newer young adult titles that fall in the realistic fiction genre.  All of these books touched me in some way or another.  All of them were windows into other people's lives, that while different from mine, gave me a new appreciation, or made me think about something a little differently.  Click on the title to find my review.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
by Eric Lindstrom

Holding Up the Universe
by Jennifer Niven

Girl in Pieces
by Kathleen Glasgow

The Loose Ends List
by Carrie Firestone

The Memory of Things
by Gae Polisner

What are some of your favorite and new realistic fiction young adult reads you've come across lately?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - a little bit of US History 9.28.16

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.

Teaching US History, presidents, or history of women's right to vote?  Here's a mix of everything!


Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken Burns
Grover Cleveland, Again!:  A Treasury of American Presidents
by Ken Burns
Fantastic compendium of American presidents.  A must have in classrooms and libraries.  
I really enjoyed how Burns added more interesting facts than those we already know about each president.

US History (also books that feed this Hamilnerd's heart!):
Thanks to other bloggers for these books! 

Revolutionary Friends by Selene Castrovilla
Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette
by Selene Castrovilla
Lafayette is one of my favorite characters in "Hamilton", so I was thrilled to hear about this book!  This was not a picture book about Lafayette's life, but focused really one the friendship between him and Washington.  Beginning when they met and then going over some key events, I was surprised to learn how close Washington and Lafayette became - almost a father-son relationship.
Great back matter - includes historical places to visit that celebrate Washington/Lafayette.

Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud
Worst of Friends
by Suxanne Tripp Jurmain
Another favorite character from "Hamilton" is Thomas Jefferson (probably because the same actor plays Lafayette in Act 1 and then Jefferson in Act 2).  This book was sure to entertain me.  John Adams doesn't have a huge part in "Hamilton", so it was interesting to learn more about him through this picture book.  
So often we require students to do presidential reports/research.  It seems to be the same information that is added, so this book would be a welcome relief of information.
Some liberties were definitely taken in the artwork - playing in a tub, lifestyle choices - that should be discussed with young readers about factual information vs artist interpretation.

Diana's White House Garden by Elisa Carbone
Diana's White House Garden by Elisa Carbone
Child-friendly story about a young girl who helped with the war effort during World War II and helped plant a Victory Garden at the White House.  Fun stories about her time living in the White House will appeal to young readers.

Women's Suffrage

Miss Paul and the President by Dean   Robbins
Miss Paul and the President 
by Dean Robbins
A lot of picture book biographies are being published about the women's suffrage movement.  It took many strong women to fight for our right to vote!
This book is about Alice Paul and her tenacity to convince Woodrow Wilson to change the law to allow votes for women.

Happy reading!

Monday, September 26, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.26.16

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

A book that inspires us to think about stories and maybe thinking of our own - A Child of Books.

A review of Cloud and Wallfish - go behind the Iron Curtain, and get a glimpse of history.

This amazing book will inspire growth mindset, makerspace, and a love of play - The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring.

Picture Books

We Found A Hat
We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
5/5 stars
There is something beautiful about that first reading experience of a book.  Especially one that you have been anticipating for a long time.  While you often spot something new in subsequent readings, or think about things in a new way, you never really get to have that first reading experience again.
Because of this, I'm not going to review or tell you anything about Jon Klassen's final book in his Hat trilogy.  Go have your first experience.
Publishes on October 11th.  Thank you to Candlewick for my advanced copy.

Dragon Was Terrible

Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio
4/5 stars
I got this at the library, but it's one I need to own. It's not a book that I'm going to necessarily use as part of curriculum, but it's a book I'm going to share with everyone because it's so funny!  Perfect for read aloud.  Perfect to hook kids into reading.  Perfect to just enjoy the story.

Leave Me Alone
Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
5/5 stars
Another library book that I had to own because it is so stinkin' funny!  I totally know that feeling of wanting to just be left alone to finish whatever it is you want to get done.  I love the lengths the character goes to!

The Water Princess
The Water Princess by Susan Verde
4/5 stars
I hope this book serves as a "door" and encourages students and teachers to become active in doing and serving the community and the world.
Powerful message.  Beautiful illustrations.

King Baby
King Baby by Kate Beaton
4/5 stars
This is another one I may need to purchase!  It's funny and silly and I know students will love it, probably even relate to it!  Babies are the king... or queen!

Graphic Novels

Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
5/5 stars
Great take on the familiar "Jack and the Beanstalk".  Definitely it's own story and I'm anxious to see how Hatke will continue it.  Yeah, there's a cliffhanger.

Middle Grade

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
5/5 stars
Dude can write!  I am amazed at Reynolds way of writing books for different ages.  And being able to pull different emotions out of his readers.  There are times where I'm laughing, there are times where I'm in awe of some prolific statement, there are times when I am emotional for the characters.
Great upper middle grade novel that I am so excited will be part of a series.  I can't wait to find out what the characters are up to next.

Under the Ashes
Under the Ashes by Cindy Rankin
3/5 stars
It started out well - strong character, great setting (San Francisco) and plot (earthquake) but the character and plot development ended up being a little too weak.
Publishes Nov. 1st.

Currently Reading

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This book comes out in January 2017 but I was at my {somewhat} local indie this weekend and they let me borrow this copy.  It is very witty so far, I really like the main character.

What are you reading these days?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Spotlight Friday: A Child of Books 9.23.16

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!

This summer I fell in love with the music from Hamilton.  Like so many others, the music, the lyrics, the power of Hamilton struck a chord with me and stuck in my mind, in my heart.  But this line really hit home.

For the past two years, I've struggled with writing.  Writing is not easy for me, it's hard for me to express the thoughts that roam in my mind.  I practice it every week here on this blog.  I tell my story.  Right now, my story is my reading life.  I share it because it's my passion.  I want to inspire and give to other educators.  I'm telling my story.

A Child of Books
A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
published by Candlewick Press

Then this book was shared with me at the end of summer.  It shares a similar idea for young readers.

                 Who tells your story?                     
                           Share your story.
We are from stories.  Our stories are in the books we read.  These stories take us places.  They teach us things.  They let us do the unimaginable.  

Our words show us the way.  They take us to where we want to go.  They take us where we can't go.  They let us explore.  They tell where we've been.  

           They tell our story.

Share this story with students.  Ask them:
  • what do they believe - do their words make a difference?
  • do they tell their story?
  • what do books mean to them?
  • do they believe in the power of books?
  • where do books take them?
  • what have they learned from books?
  • what do they want books to do?
  • what do they wish they could get from books?
  • how can they tell their story?
  • what format would they use to tell their story?
I think it's a powerful conversation to have.  Let them know their words hold power.  Let them tell their story.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cloud and Wallfish - review 9.22.16

I remember sitting in history/social studies classes and reading the textbook, listening to lectures and watching documentaries.  Back then, if anything interested me, it was usually because the teacher somehow found a way to bring it to life.  I know I never had an engaging experience with a textbook.  Any historical fiction I read was done as a whole class novel and usually fell under the category of it being a "classic".  While some of those books might have been ok, they're not books I'm going back to reread now.  

But now.  Today.  I'm in awe of the historical fiction students can choose to read.  Authors today are bringing to life times past in a way that engages the reader into the story and they are learning such authentic details.  I know I've learned more about time periods, events, and historical figures in the middle grade historical fiction novels I've read in the past few years than I ever did in my textbooks or lectures.  I hope today's social studies teachers know about these amazing books that they can offer to their students!  Learning facts and dates and events can be dry and boring for middle graders.  Why?  Because it doesn't relate to their lives.  But by seeing what it was like to live these events through the eyes of someone their age, now it's more meaningful because they can relate.  That's what these middle grade novels do.

Cloud and Wallfish
Cloud and Wallfish
by Anne Nesbet
published by Candlewick Press

Thinking back to my experiences growing up, I know I learned about the Berlin Wall, but I really don't remember learning anything specific about it.  I was in 8th grade when we covered that time period, but I don't remember many details about it going up, why it did, or the tension that was occurring there.  When the Wall came down, I was a sophomore in high school.  Apparently in my own world because I don't remember anything about it.  With some of the amazing historical fiction being published today, I'm learning more about this time period and it's fascinating.  Last year's A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen brought to light this time period when the Wall went up and the panic families felt.  But as we know, the Wall went up and stayed up for decades.  East Germans and West Germans lived this life for many, many years.  It affected these countries and other countries around them such as Austria and Hungary.

In Anne Nesbet's newest novel, Cloud and Wallfish, we return to the Berlin Wall, but this time it's later in the history, the late 1980s.  Our young main character, Noah, is going to live in East Germany with his family but it's under unusual circumstances as he is having to change his name, his background as he knows it, even his birthdate.  Noah has to live under a new set of rules his parents set upon him, without even understanding the reason behind them.  We see the way East German children live their lives through the eyes of Noah.  The book is rich with historical information, names and places that are embedded through the story so instead of them being a history lesson, it's part of the setting and feel of the book.  In the story, Noah meets another child, Claudia, who also has a mystery surrounding her, and the children work together to try and figure out the events that are happening around them.  The reader becomes familiar with what is happening during this time period through the story, but also in the "case notes" that follow each chapter.  The case notes give further background but are written as if giving additional information to explain the mystery that is surrounding Noah and Claudia.

The author's note in the back of the book explains how Nesbet had lived in East Germany and her experiences there.  I really appreciated the amount of information she embedded into the story because it really did give you more of a feeling of "being there".  So much authenticity in the details.

This will be an amazing book to add to historical fiction collections.  I hope 5th-8th grade teachers and librarians will see this and introduce Cloud and Wallfish and their experiences to their young readers.

Goodreads summary:
Slip behind the Iron Curtain into a world of smoke, secrets, and lies in this stunning novel where someone is always listening and nothing is as it seems.

Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why — not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah—now "Jonah Brown"—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening — and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Slinky! 9.21.16

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.

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring
The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
by Gilbert Ford
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Just added a new book to my list of favorite nonfiction picture books!  Loved so many things about this book:
  • concept
  • ideas
  • illustrations
The subtitle for this book explains a lot - "the accidental invention".  I would love to see a statistic that shows how many inventions were made on total accidents.  What started out as Richard James' invention for the Navy, and then through some trial and error and child play, ended up being the toy we know and love.  Ford walks us through some of the early problems of the slinky - getting the funding for it, discovering the fun of playing with it (especially for children), naming it, and getting the stores to buy into it.

I loved that there was an underlying theme of play to this book.  To show how an invention meant one thing but became a children's toy is powerful for young readers.  I loved the line,

"Today, the Slinky still inspires kids - of all ages, and all across the globe - to play."

I loved how this book spotlighted that ideas come from different places.  So often kids think an idea has to end exactly how it started.  This was a great book to show growth mindset!

I loved the illustrations!  They were definitely a stand out.  Many of us are familiar with the cover art Ford has done for numerous books (Natalie Lloyd's Snicker and Key to Extraordinary, Chris Grabenstein's Lemoncello series, Jonathan Auxier's Peter Nimble) and his award winning illustrations from Mr. Ferris and His Wheel.  This book is a departure from what we're used to, using digital drawings that are cut and photographed and using found items in the finished scenes.  Some of the found art really made the illustrations stand out.  I felt like it brought a "play-like" atmosphere to the book, which is a definite underlying theme.  This is a book that may end up on my Mock Caldecott list.

Image result for the marvelous thing that came from a spring

Image result for the marvelous thing that came from a spring

The author's note gave us some more information about what else happened to the James family after the initial success of the slinky.  I imagine there is enough to fill another picture book - one that spotlights how Betty James kept the company running.

Whether you're using this book to spotlight the toy, to show the power of a growth mindset or even to use it for makerspace, this book has a definite place in libraries everywhere.