Monday, October 26, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

Goodnight Already! By Jory John

A very tired bear is visited by his wide-awake neighbor, Duck, in this humorous picture book.  Bear is adamant that he needs to sleep, but Duck is bored and repeatedly keeps him from falling asleep.  The ending, in which Duck falls asleep and Bear is now wide awake, is somewhat predictable, but young readers will be amused.  There is humor in the illustrations as well.  Readers will be amused with Bear’s expressions, which exactly capture his feelings, and the details in the illustrations, such as Bear’s purple and pink star robe and his stuffie that makes an appearance throughout the book.

Sick Simon by Dan Krall

Although Simon is sick, he goes to school. He is pictured in the story as sneezing on his classmates and having a runny nose and by the end of the week it is apparent he has gotten his classmates sick.  The germs turn up while Simon is riding the bus home from school and they teach him a lesson about proper hygiene for when one is sick.  This book teaches the behaviors that are necessary when one is sick in an interesting and humorous way.  Many of the illustrations, such as Simon’s dripping nose, are gross, but will entertain young readers.  

Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott

This is a picture book written in comic book style, reminiscent of the Magic School Bus.  Like Ms. Frizzle, Dr. Cosmic has an unusual teaching style in which his students experience and learn about a science-related topic.  As a group of students visit the dinosaur exhibit at their new school they not only learn information about dinosaurs, bu find themselves involved in a mishap in which the dinosaurs come alive.  The story is interesting and informative.  I think the illustrations, which include lots of detail and are action-packed, will be attractive to readers and make them want to return to this story again and again.  

I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

This picture book is fun and informative.  Readers will learn a lot of information about spiders and may even be persuaded to like spiders a little bit when they realize, like the narrator does, that spiders are helpful when they eat bugs.  The text is written in a conversational tone, drawing the reader into the narrator’s efforts not to squish the spider.  The narrator even suggests trying to pet the spider.  Throughout the book, the narrator tells interesting information about spiders to help readers see them in a new light.  Young readers will laugh, as well as learn. 

Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball by Emily Jenkins

This picture book is based on the toy characters from the chapter books in the Toys trilogy.  The three toys are adventuring outside to see snow for the first time.  The simple story tells of their wonder and amazement as they play in the snow.  Lumphy, the Buffalo, has questions about the snow and while Plastic answers factually, StingRay offers his own poetic version.  They return to the house and appreciate the peacefulness of the snow and the warmth.  The book tells a sweet, whimsical tale that will get readers excited about the first snow fall.  

Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-sitters Club Graphix #1) by Ann Martin and Raina Telgemeier

I have never read any Ann Martin’s original Babysitter Club books so I don’t know how this new version of the series compares to the original, but the graphic style is sure to interest many readers.  The graphic novel centers on four girls who have formed a baby-sitting club and in addition to running their club are dealing with family issues and learning how to handle conflict between friends.  I think many readers will be able to relate to the characters and connect to the problems that the characters are facing.  I anticipate that this series will become very popular with my students.

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

This is a chapter book for middle grade readers that tells a heartwarming tale of friendship. Lily, who has lived with her grandparents since her mother died when she was two, feels left behind now that her best friend has become interested in boys.  She begins an unlikely friendship with Salma, whose family members are migrant workers in the blueberry fields.  The story touches upon issues related to differences, growing up, and friendship.  It also shows the power of friends and family and the ways in which they can support one another.    

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

This middle grade novel addresses the very important subject of homelessness and poverty.  Jackson’s family is struggling to pay the bills and are at-risk of losing their home.  Jackson is worried about his family’s situation and when his imaginary friend, Crenshaw, reappears he is also trying to figure out if he's real and why he's returned.  Jackson learns the importance of companionship and family and the story ends with a sense of hope for better times.  This novel is powerful in that it can help create empathy and understanding for those who are struggling through hard times.    

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Slice of Life: A Saturday at Teachers College

Two Writing Teachers is the host of Tuesdays' Slice of Life.  Check out the website to read more Slice of Life stories.
I spent five hours in a car Friday afternoon.  Five long hours.  My stomach felt a little queasy from the stop-and-go traffic.  My legs were in desperate need of a stretch by hour two.  By the time my colleague and I got to New York City we just wanted to park and get out of the car.  We spent another half hour or so in the car, trying to navigate the intense city traffic as we searched for the parking garage.  We looped around again and again and finally found the parking garage beneath the Museum of Natural History.  We made it.  Although it was a long car ride, I was quite happy and excited about spending the next at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Saturday reunion.

This was my first time attending the Saturday reunion and I can't believe I've never thought to go before.  The speakers were wonderful.  The topics of the presentations were relevant and practical.  The passion of the participants was contagious.  The fact that it was free was just icing on the cake.  I attended five sessions, a keynote given by Mo Willems and four sessions with Teachers College staff, and each one enhanced my knowledge of literacy instruction.  Mo Willems reminded me that the meaning of a text resides not in the words or the illustrations, but within the reader and he showed us how to draw his famous pigeon.  I attended a session presented by Alissa Levy in which I learned that students' post-its can be used as a tool to help them write and talk long.  Lucy Calkins provided many strategies for engaging students in writing about reading and reminded me that writing about reading should be purposeful and help students grow their ideas.  Kathleen Tolan discussed a sequence for teaching small groups of students who need support with the strategies taught during the minilesson.  She cautioned us that we need to devote more than one session to an intervention if we want to move students closer to mastery.    If we expect mastery in just one session then we end up doing the work for our students.  Kathy Collins modeled how to discuss little books, A and B leveled readers, to strengthen students' understanding of text.  She reminded us that it's not just about print, it's about meaning, and even the youngest of readers can be supported in their comprehension

Overall it was a wonderful day of learning and conversation with others about one of my favorite topics - literacy.  I would definitely drive the five hours there and back to attend again.  The March Saturday reunion will be their 90th event and Lucy Calkins hinted that the project would somehow celebrate this.  If you can get to New York City, I would highly recommend attending.  You'll walk away with a greater understanding of how to support students in developing reading and writing habits that will help them become independent.  You'll also learn new instructional strategies and ideas that can be implemented in the classroom.  The Saturday reunion was a worthwhile professional development experience and I look forward to the next time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

We’re in the Wrong Book by Richard Byrne

Bella and Ben get bumped out of their book by Bella’s dog. Throughout the book they try to find their way back.  They end up in many different types of books, including a counting book, a comic book, a book of mazes, and a familiar fairy-tale before they find their way back to their own book.  This is a unique and clever little book. 

Naughty Mabel by Nathan Lane

This is an amusing story of a very naughty dog.  Mabel is a free spirit.  She also loves a party.  When her owners throw a party, to which she is not invited, her antics cause a big commotion.  Readers will find great humor in how Mabel clears out an entire room after eating, “too many pigs in too many blankets.”  Mabel may be a naughy dog, but her family loves her all the same, as I’m sure young readers will also.   

How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Steven Jenkins has wonderful and interesting ways of writing nonfiction books for children.  This is no exception – the book is filled with instructions that explain the behavior of different animals.  Readers can learn how a humpback whales traps fish, a crow cracks a nut, or even how a vervet monkey warns of danger.  This book would be appealing to readers who wish to learn interesting information about wild animals.

Dragon Masters: Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West

This early reader chapter book is a quick read that includes pictures on every page.  My reluctant readers tend to like chapter books with adventure and an imaginative plot that holds their attention so this is a book I would recommend to many of them.  The book tells the story of Drake, and three other children, who have been chosen by the king to train dragons.  This is the first book in a series that is written to support students who are beginning to read chapter books.

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

Not only did I get to read Mo Willems’s latest book, but I got to see him speak at Teachers College this past weekend during their Saturday Reunion event.  His speech was smart and funny, reminding us that the reader is the one who brings meaning to the story.  His latest book is an early reader chapter book.  The story takes place in Paris and tells the story of Diva, a dog who lives at 11 avenue Le Play, and Flea, a wandering cat.  Although they are very different from each other they strike up a friendship and learn from one another.  The illustrations, by Tony DiTerlizzi, are as wonderful as the story. 

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater & Jackson Pearce

Pip can talk to magical creatures.  This gets her into trouble with a unicorn so she is sent to live with her aunt who is a veterinarian at a clinic for magical creatures.  Pip becomes involved with helping her aunt rid the town of a magical creature that is causing problems for those that live there.  Throughout the book there are pages which are intended to look like those in the guide to magical creatures that Pip carries around with her.  I would recommend this book to readers who like mythical creatures, magic, or fantasy.

Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld

The two sisters in this middle grade novel are very different.  Eliza is level-headed, but Lavender dreams of meeting a prince and becoming a princess.  When Lavender pretends to be a princess and Eliza goes in search for her an adventure begins. This story is a fun and quirky fairy-tale with a faithful goat, an evil count, a daring rescue, and a frightening dragon.  The writing is also interesting because the author includes may puns throughout the story.

Monday, October 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

Hungry Roscoe by David Plant

Roscoe, a racoon, is hungry and tired of eating junk.  He goes in search of some fresh food at the nearby zoo.  He uses his creativity dressing up as some of the animals, but the zookeeper catches him.  Roscoe is finally able to get some food with the help of the monkeys, but it causes a little bit of mayhem.  Readers will be amused by Roscoe’s costumes and his persistence in trying to get what he wants.  It’s a fast-moving story to keep readers entertained.

I (Don’t) Like Snakes by Nicola Davies

Nicola Davies blends fiction and nonfiction in a story about a girl who says she doesn’t like snakes and her family who provides explanations about them, such as how they slither and the purpose of their tongues. The girl becomes increasingly positive about snakes as she learns new information about them.  Readers will learn a lot about snakes themselves by reading this book.  The format is perfect for capturing students’ interest and helping them learn about an animal who many typically dislike. 

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

This picture book has great illustrations.  The animals are drawn amongst a black background to show that it’s nighttime.  One animal after the other becomes scared and they try to hide from the night animal.  Amidst their fears, the possum provides some comic relief by standing on his head and playing dead.  There is minimal text on each page as the story is told through dialogue between the characters.  The book addresses a common fear of some children, the fear of the dark, but in a humorous way. 

Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings

This is a chapter book for elementary readers about a cat named Hissy, a pretty grumpy cat who just wants a nap.  The book is written from the perspective of Hissy, providing insight about how cats may really feel about the interactions they have with humans.  There is a lot of action within the plot – Hissy must constantly escape Zeb, a three year-old who never leaves him alone, he battles a raccoon, and he joins in a game of cat soccer.  I recommended this to a student who had previously read Jenning’s Guinea Dog and he jumped at the chance to read it.  I think it’s a book many of my reluctant readers will enjoy since it has action and adventure and is a fairly quick read.    

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas

I greatly enjoyed reading this middle grade novel.  It is unique, endearing, and full of imagination.  Jaques Papier is an imaginary friend and this is the story of what happens when he finally realizes that he is imaginary.  There are parts that are funny and parts that make you think. It’s about a journey to find oneself and the desire to belong and not feel so invisible.  The author stated in an interview that she was inspired by Kate DiCamillo, Roald Dahl, and E. B. White.  There is much about Cuevas’s writing that matches that of these great authors – it’s beautiful, clever, and whimsical.  I just loved so much about this book.  It’s definitely been one of the best I’ve read recently.