Monday, January 30, 2017

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

I Love You Already! by Jory John

This is a story of two friends with very different personalities. Duck is outgoing and energetic, while Bear would rather be alone and relax. When Bear shows little interest in going for a walk with Duck, Duck begins to doubt Bear's feelings for him. Bear is nothing but grumpy along the walk, but makes his friend feel better when he admits he does love him. The story and illustrations are humorous, similar to the first book about Duck and Bear, Goodnight Already!

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering

Captain Alfred is sailing home with new ducks for his farm and a gift for his wife - an egg in his fiddle case that is about to hatch. An unexpected storm hits and the duckling that has just hatched finds himself alone in the sea and the fog. The duckling finds the captain's fiddle and makes music. The comforting sounds of the duckling's fiddle bring him unexpected friends as well as great happiness. The story of Alfred Fiddleduckling is a little quirky, but it also has a lot of heart with its celebration of love and joy. Ering's illustrations, which draw the reader into the emotions of the story, are absolutely gorgeous.

Otherwise Known as Possum by Maria D. Laso

Possum's life has changed drastically since her mother has died. Her father decides to send Possum to school, and Possum, who preferred being taught at home, is determined to prove she is too smart for school. This is a sweet story, set in the 1930's, about a young girl coping with change and the challenges of getting along with others. The afterword explains the backstory of the author who spent a decade writing the book and sadly passed away not long after she finished the book.      

Monday, January 23, 2017

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...

Animals By the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins

This book is full of fascinating facts about animals, all of which are presented through numbers, charts, graphs, and other visuals. This book is wonderful because of the information that it provides about the animal world, but also because it could be useful for teaching students to interpret infographics. This is one of those books that readers will want to spend some time with because there is so much to learn within its pages.

Pugs of the Frozen North (A-Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Philip Reeve

Shen and Shika are racing their sled in a competition in which they must be the first to get to the Snowfather's palace at the top of the world. Shen and Shika's sled isn't an ordinary sled; their sled is pulled by sixty-six pugs. This is a very far-fetched tale of adventure. Although very silly, there is a message about persistence, teamwork, and friendship. 

Liberty (Dogs of World War II) by Kirby Larson

This story set during World War II is about Fish, who is living with his sister while his dad is away fighting. He has a bad leg as a result of having polio when he was younger and spends a lot of his time inventing and making contraptions. He finds a stray dog, but when the dog is captured by someone who means to do him harm Fish and a friend must find a way to rescue him. Fish finds friends unexpectedly as his story intersects with that of Mo, a POW. This is an engaging read that will give readers insight into the time period.

Hook's Revenge (Hook's Revenge Book I) by Heidi Schulz

Jocelyn's grandfather wants her to be a respectable young lady so he sends her to finishing school. Jocelyn just wants adventures on the high seas so when her father, Captain Hook, requests that she avenge his death she is off to Neverland. As Jocelyn goes in search of the crocodile who is responsible for her father's death she learns that being a pirate is not easy. This is quite an adventure story. The connections to Peter Pan also make it a fun read. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

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...

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

Darkus Cuttle's father mysteriously disappears from the National Museum of History where he works. Since Darkus's mother has previously died he goes to live with his uncle. Darkus finds a very unusual rhinoceros beetle who can understand him. Darkus, along some new-found friends, one of which is his beetle, is on a mission to find his father and save a mountain of rare beetles living next door. Many of the characters in this book are a bit eccentric. The plot is quirky and silly, but there is mystery, action, and humor that make it quite interesting. This is a great start to what will be a trilogy.

Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm

I received a copy of this book last summer, but it ended up getting pushed to the bottom of my stack of unread books. Now that I've read it, I can't believe I did not have this book at the top of the pile. It is July 1934, during the Great Depression, and Bean, who lives in Key West, wants to make some money for himself. He takes a job even though it involves some criminal activity. Bean soon learns that his actions have great consequences on others. Although a serious plot, this story was filled with humor. I also learned information about Key West that I found interesting. I have not yet read Holm's previous title, Turtle in Paradise, about the same time period, but I am putting it on my to-be-read list.

The House of Months and Years by Emma Trevayne

Amelia and her parents move in with her cousins when they become orphaned. Amelia is miserable living in a new place, leaving her best friend, and sharing her parents with three cousins. Amelia begins to think the new house is haunted and then discovers secrets about the house and its magical qualities that allow her to travel through space and time. This book has magic and fantasy, as well as a little mystery and spookiness. There are also lessons to be learned as Amelia learns to cope with the changes in her life. I think I would recommend this book to those readers who enjoy stories about the supernatural or are looking for something a little scary.

The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau

I picked this book up at a local bookstore where the author, Kara LaReau, was signing books this past Saturday. The story is about the Bland Sisters, Jaundice and Kale, who rarely leave their house since their parents went on an errand and never returned. The sisters miss their parents, but are quite content eating cheese, darning socks, and watching grass grow. When the sisters are kidnapped by a pirate and find themselves aboard an all-female pirate ship, The Jolly Regina, they have an adventure in which they find themselves searching for their parents. The sisters are sweet, amusing, and quick-thinking. This is a quick, interesting read and the puns, which may go over children's heads, give it some humor. The sisters often refer to their dictionary which Kale carries with her everywhere and each chapter begins with the definition of a word that is used within the chapter. This is a charming read and I look forward to the Bland sisters next adventure.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Celebrate This Week: Reading is a Superpower

Thank you to Ruth Ayres at Discover. Play. Build.  She hosts a link-up every week that focuses on the reasons we have to celebrate.

Students unpacked their backpacks, listened to morning announcements, and then headed down to the gym or cafeteria with blankets and books tucked under their arms for Books, Breakfast, and Blankets. Students spread their blankets around the floor and settled in to read and snack. In the gym, I read Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio to first and second graders before they began independently reading their own self-chosen texts. This humorous picture book was a big hit.   

This event was planned as a series of reading celebrations that are intended to build students' enjoyment of reading. A committee has been meeting since the beginning of the school year to discuss ideas to get students reading more. We want our students not only to read more, but to read because they are intrinsically motivated rather than because they will get a prize for reading a certain number of minutes.

Previous to this event, we had a bookmark contest in which students were invited to design a bookmark and one winner from each grade level was selected. Each winning design was printed as an actual bookmark. Each grade level winner passed out the bookmark he/she designed to the students at that grade level during Books, Breakfast, and Blankets. The students who won the contest were pleased and proud that their design was made into a bookmark and they got to pass it out to their peers. 

Books, Breakfast, and Blankets was a fun event. Not only did students relax and read during this whole-school reading break, but teachers did as well. When I asked students about their thoughts they remarked that they appreciated the time to just read and to read what they chose. The bookmarks students designed were adorable and creative. The second grade bookmark had the slogan, "Reading is a superpower" written at the top. This week, I celebrate students who are learning to use and appreciate their reading superpower and teachers who are helping to instill students' love of reading.

Monday, January 9, 2017

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...

Teddy Mars Book #1: Almost a World Record Breaker by Molly Burnham

Teddy has five older sisters and a five year old brother, Jake, who he calls The Destructor. Teddy is trying to break a world record and has many failed attempts. He also moves into a tent to escape his many siblings, one of who destroys Teddy's favorite things. Facts from the Guinness Book of World Records are interwoven into the story. Teddy is funny and his antics are amusing. The story is sweet, as well, as Teddy learns an important lesson. There are many illustrations throughout the book adding to the interest factor. This is a series I will be introducing to some of my students.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Doreen is rather unique. She's a fourteen-year old girl with the tail and powers of a squirrel. She has to keep her tail concealed so others don't realize she is different, but she still has difficulty making new friends. When Doreen realizes she can use her special abilities to help others she becomes Squirrel Girl. Being Squirrel Girl becomes more difficult when she is challenged by a villain. This story is packed with action. It is based on Squirrel Girl, a Marvel Comics superhero and readers who enjoy stories about superheroes and villains will be entertained by this one. Doreen is a determined, warm-hearted, and funny character. Squirrel Meets World is both quirky and fun.

The Wizard's Dog by Eric Kahn Gale

This story told from the perspective of Nosewise, Wizard Merlin's dog, is a twist on the tale The Stone in the Sword. When wearing a special stone, Nosewise has special powers including the ability to talk. When Merlin and his apprentice Morganda are kidnapped, Nosewise goes in search for them. His adventure takes him to a castle where he meets Arthur, into the depths of the Otherworld, and finally to Avalon where a battle to rescue the wizard takes place. This is an adventurous story with some humor and lots of magic and wizardry. Nosewise is a loyal and brave dog and his main role in the story will be appreciated by dog lovers.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I Will Be Reading in 2017


My To-Be-Read list is always growing. As is the stack of books in my To-Be-Read pile. Other reading teachers, book lovers, and lifelong readers probably also sum up their reading life in this way: so many books, so little time. I find as much time as possible to read, but the lists and stacks don't seem to shrink much. I often forget about the books I was eagerly anticipating reading a month ago or put aside the book I just acquired and instead pick up whatever seems worth reading in that moment. For 2017, I have decided to make a list of "must reads" so I have a reading plan. I hope this will ensure that the books I've been looking forward to reading don't get skipped over on the list or buried in the stack. I also join Carrie Gelson of There's a Book For That and a community of other bloggers who are also making #MustReadin2017 lists. My must read list includes a number of middle grade titles that will be published in 2017. I have already heard some book buzz about many of them. There are also a few professional books, recently published or up-and-coming, on my must read list.

Middle Grade Must Reads

Professional Must Reads

I believe talk is essential to student learning, but teaching students to have authentic and meaningful conversations that support their comprehension of text is often a challenge. I hope to get some ideas to support students' talk about text from reading Literacy Conversations in the Classroom: Deepening Understanding of Nonfiction and Narrative by Diane Barone and Rebecca Barone.
I recently read a review of Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg in the New York Times. Two adjectives used to describe the book were "important' and "alarming." I am interested in learning about the perspective that Seidenberg, who is a cognitive scientist, takes on learning to read.
I loved Gravity Goldberg's book, Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge so I am looking forward to What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow which she co-authored with Renee Houser. There will be both a nonfiction and fiction version.
Vicki Vinton is another author whose previous work I found to be very insightful. I have seen Vicki Vinton present recently at NCTE and last spring at the New England Reading Association and always learn from her. I have no doubt that my instructional practice will be enriched from reading her book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach.

What are you planning on reading in 2017?

Monday, January 2, 2017

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 Friend Ship by Kat Yeh

Lonely Hedgehog hears that there is "friendship" out there and goes in search of a "Friend Ship." She meets others along the way who would also like to find a friend and they join her on her search. Hedgehog eventually realizes where the Friend Ship is and the friends are off to celebrate. This is a sweet, warm story about friendship and discovery what has been there all along.

The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story by Nancy Rose

One of my most borrowed holiday books this season was Rose's Merry Christmas, Squirrels! My students are intrigued and amazed with the photographs that feature real-life squirrels acting like humans. In this Valentine story, Mr. Peanuts is lonely and wishes for someone special to celebrate with. I appreciate that Mr. Peanuts is a book lover and finds his someone special in the bookstore. There is definitely a creative use of photography in this picture books series. 

Dog Man Unleashed (Dog Man #2) by Dav Pilkey

There is as much absurdity and nonsense in this book as in the first Dog Man. I have a list of readers still waiting to read the first book and those who have already read it are eagerly anticipating this second book. I am sure they will find it just as hilarious as the first. 

Hazy Bloom and the Tomorrow Power by Jennifer Hamburg

Hazy, a third grader, has "tomorrow power" which enables her to see visions of what will occur the next day. These visions only offer clues as to what is going to happen and because Hazy misinterprets them she finds herself getting into trouble. Hazy is a fun character - spunky and humorous. The silly predicaments she finds herself in are amusing. This is the first in a series and I look forward to reading more about Hazy's adventures.

The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus

Gregory K. feels that homework takes up too much of his time and is not enhancing his learning so he decides to go on strike. He must keep his grades up and get others to join in his cause while trying not to get in too much trouble with the principal. Gregory shows that getting one's voice heard and making change is not always easy, but is possible. Every chapter begins with one of Gregory's poems which are amusing and funny. I think many of my readers will relate to Gregory's distaste of homework. 

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

Jack Sullivan is living in his tree house after a monster apocalypse has hit his town. Most everyone has escaped or turned into zombies except Jack and a few of his classmates. Jack and his friends must work together to survive. There is plenty of action, silly humor, and interesting illustrations. My preferred reading usually does not involves zombies, but I know many a reluctant reader who will be drawn to this type of book.