Monday, December 19, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

A Bike Like Sergio's by Maribeth Boelts

While at the store, Ruben picks up money that a lady has dropped. When he gets home, he discovers that it is much more than he thought. Ruben really wants a new bike, but he also wonders about the lady who dropped the money. This is a story that shows the power of doing the right thing. It would also be a great story for discussing empathy. This is a sweet story with a great lesson.

Goldie Rules the School (Goldie Blox) by Stacy McAnulty

Goldie builds things. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes problems such as when she blew the roof off her school. Goldie feels she doesn't fit in at her new school so she devises a plan to rebuild her old school. Goldie is a great character - sweet, funny, determined, creative. This is a short chapter book with great characters, but also an interesting story. I'll recommend this one to a few of my third graders.     

The Uncommoner's #1: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

Ivy and her brother, Seb, find themselves in a magical world after their grandmother is rushed to the hospital. They become involved in a mystery to figure out the connection their grandmother has to this world and soon find themselves trying to save their parents. In this magical world, uncommon objects have unusual magical qualities. This book is quite fantastical, some parts a bit dark, but lots of adventure. 

Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff Anderson

Zack tries to go unnoticed at his school, where standing out often leads to trouble or being the target of bullying. When Zack speaks out on behalf of a classmate, he is put in charge of the sixth grade fundraiser. Zack's story is interesting and adventurous, but Zack is also funny and relatable. This book shows that being a kid isn't always easy, but it is possible to work through the problems that arise with classmates and school. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week

Samson in the Snow by Philip Stead

Samson waits quietly with his flowers, in the sun, for a friend. A little red bird comes by and asks Samson for some of his dandelions to give to a friend. When the sunny day turns into one filled with snow, Samson is worried about the little bird and starts off on a journey to find him. Samson discovers he is not the only one searching for someone and, in the end, he finds friendship and happiness. This is a warm, quiet story with a lovely message about thoughtfulness. Samson, a wooly mammoth, is quite sweet. This book would be a useful one to introduce the concept of empathy.

Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! The Good for Nothing Button! by Mo Willems and Charise Mercicle Harper

I received an ARC of this book at NCTE last month. This is another humorous story in the style of Willems's Elephant and Piggie books. In this story, Yellow Bird has a button that does nothing and shows it to Red Bird and Blue Bird. They take turns pressing the button and find out it actually does something when it causes them to feel different emotions such as surprise, anger, and happiness. Like the other books in this series, the characters are silly, funny, and sweet. 

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Synder

This early chapter book includes four stories about two brothers, Charlie and Mouse. Each story is a simple, day-in-the-life event of the brothers that captures the joy of childhood and the bond between brothers. The brothers are quite adorable. I think early readers will love Charlie and Mouse as much as they do characters in other favorite books, such as Frog and Toad and Little Bear

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Isaiah escapes from the lab where he has lived against his will his entire life, but his ninety-six siblings were not as lucky to find freedom. Isaiah is not an ordinary mouse. For one thing, he is blue. He also has the ability to communicate with humans. Isaiah feels alone without his family until he meets a mischief of mice who welcome him into their home. Isaiah befriends a girl who also struggles with being different. With the help of the girl and his new mice family, Isaiah hatches a plan to set his siblings free from the lab. This story was an interesting tale about being different and having courage. There were words of wisdom, from Isaiah, at the beginning of each chapter that hinted about the events to come, such as, "All of us are given gifts. How we use them is up to us." and "Things turn out best for the mice who make the best out of the way things turn out." This story has adventure and a quick pace and an unlikely hero who readers can admire and learn from. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

I attended NCTE in Atlanta this month where I spent three days learning from leaders in the field of literacy. The event was energizing and joyous as I got to network with others who share my passion for the teaching of literacy. When I returned home, my head was swimming with ideas and thoughts, but I also had a duffle bag filled with books. I met many wonderful authors who were willing to take the time to sign books, pose for photos, and chat about their work.  Now that I am home, I am reading my way through the stack of books I accumulated at the conference. 



What I Read This Week...

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louise Braille by Jen Bryant

In the Author's Note at the end of this book, Jen Bryant states that she wrote this book because other biographies of Louise Braille did not capture the essence of what it felt like to be the young inventor. Bryant brings Louise to life in this picture book in a way that helps readers to imagine both his experiences and his emotions as he lost his sight, yearned to read, and developed an alphabet that brought great change to many people's lives. The story of Louise is interesting and inspiring.

The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

The big bad wolf is out to prove he is not a bad guy. Along with his buddies, such as Mr. Piranha and Mr. Shark, who are also misunderstood he is on a mission to do some good. This is a quick, fun read written in a graphic format. There is also some gross humor included in the book. I imagine the ridiculous, but interesting plot will be entertaining for many of my readers.

Overboard! (Survivor Diaries) by Terry Lynn Johnson

This is the first book in a new series that will be published this spring. In this chapter book, Travis is on a whale-watching tour when the boat capsizes. He is separated from his family, but discovers a girl around his age who is also trying to survive the freezing water. Together they must find their way to safety. I think this book will be an appealing read for many of my reluctant readers because it's an exciting and adventurous story, but also because it's a rather short read.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

This chapter book tells the story of Nikolas, who found the village of Elfham and became Father Christmas. This is a very imaginative story with lots of adventure, but at times it can be dark. The ending was rather sweet with a message to believe in wonder and magic. It's a unique read for the Christmas season.

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

I loved Gertie within the first few pages of this book. She made me laugh throughout the book. Many of the decisions she made in the book were not the best, but her passion for greatness made her an endearing character. The author, Kate Beasley, does a wonderful job of capturing the voice and emotions of a child. This was a fun and well-written read. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

The last two weeks have been a little light on reading for me. I did manage to get in one chapter book, which was Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. I had put off reading this one for a little bit even though I have read nothing but positive reviews about it. Once I started I found myself reflecting back on that day, but I was also eagerly anticipating how the author would bring the book to a close in a way that would bring positive light to a very painful event in our history. As others have commented, there is inspiration at the end of the book. I loved the message about unity at the end and what it shows about how we can face tragedy. I liked how the author intersected the lives of the four characters, from whose perspective the book was told, both at the beginning and the end of the book. In addition to this book, I read a couple of picture books that I just adored. 

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

This picture book is beautiful and inspirational. The story is based on the childhood of astronaut Chris Hadfield. In the book, Chris spends a lot of time pretending to be an astronaut. Chris is pictured playing alongside his dog, who is sometimes the alien and at other times a co-pilot. When it is time to go to bed, Chris would rather continue to play because he has important work to do as an “astronaut," but also because he is afraid of the dark. Terry and Eric Fan bring a child’s imagination to life with their illustrations of the dark in which shadows appear to be aliens. Chris overcomes his fear after watching the landing of Apollo 11 on a neighbor’s television. He realizes that the universe is so much darker than his room and that he’s not alone in the dark because he has his dreams. The end pages of the book tell about Chris Hadfield’s life and how his dream of being an astronaut came true. In a wonderful message from Chris at the end of the book he writes, “ The dark is for dreams – and the morning is for making them come true.” This is a wonderful picture book to show readers the possibility of overcoming fears and dreaming big. 

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

Mo Willems has never written a book that I did not love. Nanette is a frog with a big responsibility because today is the day she must get the baguette. She exclaims, “You bet!” and an excited and confident frog is on her way to complete the errand. Unfortunately, Nanette’s lack of self-control gets the better of her and she eats the baguette before it ever gets home. Nanette is full of worry about what her mom will think – she frets, she sweats, she even thinks about moving to Tibet. Mom gives Nanette a surprise that turns her day around. There is much to love about this book. The silly rhymes – who know there were so many words that rhymed with baguette – bring humor to the plot. The illustrations are wonderful as well, containing details that add to the humor. In spite of all the silly humor, Nanette is charming and the story is an endearing one about forgiveness and mistakes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Slice of Life: A Virtual Author Visit

Four classes of first graders sat on the floor of my school’s multi-purpose room. I heard murmurs of, “We’re going to meet Josh.” In the previous week, these first graders had listened to their teachers read aloud a few of Josh’s books. His books captured their imaginations and made them laugh. They learned that they were going to meet this author and get to talk to him. In the minds of these first graders, Josh was already a celebrity and a friend. I could feel their excitement as they waited for him to appear on the screen in front of them.

I had previously met children’s author Josh Funk at the International Literacy Association conference in Boston in July. I was as excited as the students to be Skyping with him at our school. Josh graciously offers his lunchtime on Fridays for Skype sessions with classrooms (he has another job besides children’s author). Within the twenty-minute author session, Josh introduced himself and his books and children had the opportunity to ask him questions. Prior to the session, teachers had brainstormed questions and each class decided on a couple they would ask. The children asked him questions such as how he gets his ideas, where he does his writing, who helps him with his books, and how he makes his stories rhyme. Inspired by Josh's book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, which takes place within a refrigerator, one child asked about the foods in Josh's own refrigerator.

When responding to the questions, Josh discussed his own writing process offering lessons that can help students understand what it means to be a writer. He explained that he gets his ideas from everywhere, from looking around the world, and even from spying on people and listening in on conversations (this got lots of giggles from students). Josh told students that he had to revise one of his books fifteen times, showing that writing takes hard work and perseverance. I hope Josh also inspired the children to follow their passions. He asked the first graders if they liked art. He then told the students about the illustrator of one of his books, Brendan Kearney, who spent a week coloring in beans. His advice to the first graders was that they should keep working on their art because someday they, too, could have a job in which they color in beans (another giggle moment).

This was the first time I had ever Skyped with an author at my school.  The process of setting up the session involved a few emails between Josh Funk and myself to arrange a date and a few conversations with the technology coach at my school to ensure we had the capability to Skype. The process was simple and pain-free. An in-person author visit, because of the expense, is often not an option for schools. This virtual visit proved to be a wonderful alternative to connect children with an author. The opportunity allowed the children to see an author as a real person who exists in the world. He was also able to provide children with insight into the writing process in order to influence their writing lives. The connection that was made between these first graders and the author also benefitted their literacy learning as it helped to grow their enthusiasm for books and writing.

Check out Josh Funk's books at his website.
Visit Kate Messner's website for a list of authors who Skype for free. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman

When a girl tries to retrieve her kite from a bear's cave and he accidentally breaks it she throws a tantrum, stomping her way home and yelling, "Horrible Bear" all the way. The bear becomes angry about being called "horrible" and comes up with a plan to get back at the girl. Instead, they both learn the power of forgiveness and that accidents happen. This is a fun story with a good lesson. 

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

I read this book because I know that Dav Pilkey's books have great appeal for many of my students, especially my more reluctant readers. Although not the type of book that appeals to my reading tastes, I can understand why students would like it. The absurd, sometimes gross humor is the sort that they find entertaining. The graphic format also makes this the type of book my elementary readers will find fun to read. Even though I have not read many of Dav Pilkey's books, I love the message that he has worked to get out to students about choosing books they like to read and reading for fun. He has a few videos, such as this one that help to inspire students to read.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

E.B. White's passion for writing began when he was young, as did his love for the state of Maine, which when he moved there as an adult provided inspiration for his books. This biography provides so many wonderful details about E.B. White's life and his writing. The book also tells the backstory of his classic books, such as Charlotte's Web. The illustrations are beautiful, but in addition photographs and writing, such as letters and story drafts, are included to bring E.B. White to life. Although written for children, there is much in the book about E.B. White's life and writing process that adults will find interesting. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!) by Dan Santat

Hippo, Croc and the Squirrels have a problem - it's cookie time and there are four of them, but only three cookies. They must figure out how to share the cookies among them before Hippo destroys them. As the friends find a way to get "equal cookies for all" readers will learn something about fractions. In the style of Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie books, the story is told through dialogue among the friends. Elephant and Piggie make an appearance before and after the story, as well. My students love Elephant and Piggie and I think they'll find this story a fun one to read aloud. 

Upside-Down Magic (Upside-Down Magic #1) by Sara Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

I became curious about this book after noticing it was a favorite at my school's book fair in September. This is a story about a group of kids who have all have a magical power, but are still learning to perfect it. They are put into the Upside-Down Magic Class, a special class for students who need to improve their magical ability. Nory has a plan to make her magic normal and get herself and her friend Elliot into a regular fifth grade class. This is a fun story about magic gone wrong, but the story offers important lessons, too, about belonging and self-acceptance.

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday (Nova Kids Book 1) by Jennie Brown

In the town of Nova, everyone was a power based on the day of the week on which the person was born. Since Poppy was born on a Monday she should have telekinesis, but she still has not fully mastered this ability. Along with a classmate, who she does not get along with, she is sent to a remedial summer school. (After reading this and Upside-Down Magic I noticed a theme among my chapter book reading.) While at Power Academy, Poppy and three classmates find themselves facing a challenge in which they must show they can properly use their powers in order to be released from the academy. There is not only magic in this book, but adventure and suspense. The characters learn about teamwork and friendship and find out that they are different, but also quite unique. I enjoyed the quirkiness and imagination of this story. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel

Ada wakes up cranky on Saturdays because she has ballet class. She attends class but she repeatedly expresses her dislike for ballet and seems to have a difficult time learning pli├ęs and arabesques. Luckily for Ada's pirouetting, which accidentally takes her out the door and down the hall, she finds an activity that suits her better. The humorous illustrations and dialogue make this a fun story about finding one's talents. 

Dog Rules by Jef Czekaj

The dog and cat find an egg and when it hatches they think the bird is their new puppy. They are puzzled when the bird is unable to learn the rules of being a dog. A black cat helps them realize their error and the bird shows he has learned something after all. I think my readers will enjoy the comic book style of this picture book.

Penguin Problems by Jory John

The penguin in this story has lots of problems and does nothing, but complain. His grumpiness about being a penguin is quite humorous. When he thinks there is no one at all who cares, a wise walrus offers him some words of wisdom about appreciating all that one does have. This books offers a gentle reminder, in a light-hearted way, to look on the bright side. 

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

It's summer, but Jack isn't quite enjoying it. While his mom goes off to work, he is left with the big responsibility of caring for his autistic sister. One day at a flea market, he trades the family car for seeds. The plants that grow from the seeds come to life and Jack and a new friend must fight off their evilness. This graphic novel is filled with action and the cliffhanger, I'm sure, will leave readers eagerly anticipating the second book. 

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

Zoe spends much of her time imagining her life was different. When a man walks into her father's plant nursery, asking for a Baobob tree, Zoe hatches a plan to grow one in hopes that she can prove there is more to her than meets the eye. Zoe is also trying to work through struggles when a friend moves away and she learns of her family's money problems. Zoe shows that it is possible to overcome challenges of growing up.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach MentorTexts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

Archie the Daredevil Penguin by Andy Rash

Archie is considered to be quite brave by the other penguins, but he's keeping a big secret: he is afraid of swimming. Archie invents many contraptions so he can fly instead of swim to the fish fry to which the penguins have invited him. His inventions don't work and one inadvertently causes him to face his fear of the "briny deep" waters. This picture book is written in a comic book style as the entire story is told through the illustrations and speech bubbles. The book is humorous and has an important message about overcoming fears.

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk

This book is written as a series of letters between two pen pals, George Slair and Blaise Dragomir. As they read their letters, they imagine each other, not realizing that one of them is a human and the other a dragon. The misunderstandings between George and Blaise are humorous and the rhyming letters are fun. The author, Josh Funk will be skyping with the first graders at my school next month. I'm looking forward to sharing this book, and his others, with first grade teachers and students. 

Ned the Knitting Pirate by Diana Murray

The crew of the pirate ship, the Rusty Heap, are all fearsome and tough. They don't appreciate Ned, who likes to knit. Ned's knitting comes in handy when an ocean beast threatens the pirates' ship, giving the message that being different is not such a bad thing. This rhyming tale is sure to be entertaining for young readers, especially those who love to read about pirates. This picture book reminds me of Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies by Carolyn Crimi because of the similar plot. In Crimi's book, Henry is a pirate who is different because he enjoys reading and although the other pirates disapprove his reading saves them in the end. 

The Dino Files: A Mysterious Egg by Stacy McAnulty

This is the first book in The Dino Files series, which is a series new to me. I am always looking for great books that will interest my second and third grade readers who want to read chapter books, but aren't quite ready for longer books that require sophisticated understanding. I think this series will be enjoyable and accessible for many readers at this age level. In this book, Franks' grandmother has found a fossil of a dinosaur egg. When the egg hatches, Frank and his cousin, Sam must work together to keep him safe. I will definitely add this and the others in the series to my library.

Rabbit and Robot and Ribbit by Cece Bell

Rabbit is excited to surprise his friend, Robot, with a visit, but is surprised to find that Robot already has a visitor. Rabbit quickly becomes jealous of Robot's friend, Ribbit. The characters are humorous and the plot is interesting in this transitional chapter book. I think both the story and illustrations will amuse my early elementary readers. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

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 and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach MentorTexts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

This picture book begins, "Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies." The story, of two best friends who get into an argument, is a familiar one, but the use of inventive language gives it an amusing and playful twist. The cartoon illustrations are fun, as well. I plan on reading this to students soon and I think they will enjoy trying to figure out the meaning of the invented words.

How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln: A Story About the Nation’s First Woman Detective by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

Abraham Lincoln may never have been inaugurated as the 16th president if not for Kate Warne. This biography tells the story of the first woman detective who discovered the details about a plot to attack Lincoln and played a key role in ensuring he arrived safely in Washington, D.C. The book provides insight into an historical event and also shows how a woman was able to accomplish something so hugely important at a time when women had limited opportunities.

The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford by Suzanne Slade

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were both curious and had dreams to become inventors. Edison’s inventions were a success, but Henry’s seemed to flop. Throughout the story Henry asks himself, “What’s his secret?” The secret, finally shared between the two over dinner one night, helps Henry learn the power of perseverance. The end pages provide additional facts about Thomas and Henry and their inventions.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

I have been anticipating the release of this picture book because I loved, both the story and the writing in the author's chapter book, The Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. This picture book was just as imaginative and beautifully written. It's a story about the Uncorker, a lonely man living above the ocean whose job it is to deliver bottles found at sea. The Uncorker is unable to deliver a message, and although he feels quite sorry about this, the outcome ends up bringing him much more happiness than he expected. This is just a lovely story about togetherness and celebrations.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton

As a young child Lonnie Johnson loved to build and create. He later achieved his dream of becoming an engineer even in the face of challenges. When he invented the super-soaker water gun, he again did not let challenges get in his way as he tried to make it a success. This true story of an inventor shows the benefits of effort, problem solving and persistence.

Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria Coe

I have been looking forward to reading this sequel to Fenway and Hattie. Thanks to the author, Victoria Coe, I received an Advanced Reader Copy last week. In this story, Hattie has a new pet, a bunny who Fenway thinks is evil. Fenway's confusion about the bunny soon grows into jealousy that leads to trouble for both Fenway and Hattie. As in the first book, the story is told from the perspective of Fenway giving the reader insight into the mind of a dog. The emotions that Fenway expresses give this book heart and the imaginative look at how he tries to figure out the human world makes it an interesting read. 

The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore

The science fiction, dystopia genre is not usually one that I choose to read, but I received this book at the International Literacy Association when I attended a meet-up with a group of middle grade authors. I probably would not have read this book if I had not met the author and been given the book, but once I began reading it I could not stop. There is so much imagination in the pages of the book and there is a bit of a mystery, as well. When I got to the end of the book, I still wanted to know more about the characters so I was glad to hear from the author on Twitter that there will be a sequel.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

This graphic novel is a blend of realistic fiction and fantasy that tells a meaningful story of two sisters, one who is unhappy about moving to a new town and another with a life-threatening disease. It's about ghosts, but also family, friendship, and courage. The graphics are wonderful, pulling me into the foggy, ghost-filled atmosphere and the Day of the Dead celebration to enhance my experience of reading the story. This story is both engaging and touching.

Wish by Barbara O'Connor

Charlie, whose own parents are not able to give her adequate care, has just moved to a new town to live with an aunt and uncle she hardly knows. She desperately wants to go back to her old life and her temper often gets the best of her. A stray dog and an unlikely friend help her learn about family and kindness. There was not a character in this book I did not like and the plot was interesting. Although Charlie's situation will pull at your heart strings, this is a sweet and heart-warming story.