Monday, July 31, 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


This is What I've Been Reading...


Hattie and Hudson by Chris Van Dusen

Hattie loves exploring in her canoe and discovering nature that exists around the lake. Charmed by her singing, Hudson, a huge monster, emerges from the water. Although Hattie and Hudson become friends, others in the town decide they must get rid of the monster. Hattie and Hudson have an idea to help those in the town change their perspective. The book has a message about acceptance and looking beyond the surface before jumping to conclusions. 

Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor

Lucia is a little girl with a big personality. She shows off her superhero skills at the playground, but the boys insist that girls can't be superheroes. Lucia gets mad, but her Abuela has a secret plan. Lucia proves she is a superhero even without a cape or mask and shows that you can be whatever you dream if you believe in yourself. Lucia's personality leaps off the page with the fast action and fun action words sprinkled throughout the text. I liked the addition of a supportive grandmother and the author includes some background information to explain what a luchadora is at the end of the book.

The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns

Cricket's half-truths get her in trouble with her teacher when, instead of writing a memoir, she writes an imaginative story that she would like to be true. Her parents go away for the weekend and leave her home to rewrite her memoir and keep her eye on her grandmother who seems to be getting more confused and forgetful lately. Cricket's grandmother suggest they go on an adventure so they pack their bags and head out to explore New York City. The trip turns out to be more than Cricket bargained for, but also an eye-opening experience that helps Cricket learn more about herself and her grandmother. Cricket and her grandmother have a beautiful relationship and the way Cricket cares for her is sweet. Both Cricket and her grandmother have spunk and free spirits which is part of what makes their adventure so amusing.

Lucy and the Rocket Dog by Will Buckingham

This book is adventurous and heart-warming and just a really good story. Lucy builds a spaceship in her backyard and her dog, Laika, accidentally launches herself into space. The book alternates between telling about Lucy's life on earth and Laika's journey in space. There is a lot of science integrated into the book for those who are curious about space. The ending will make readers smile. If you want to know more about this book, read my review here.

The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky

Miranda is one of six children who have been chosen to participate in a program that is training them to travel to Mars in nine years. Once the training begins there are series of attacks that seem to be targeting her and are putting her entire team and others in danger. Miranda and the other cadets must figure out who is responsible for the attacks and keep themselves safe. There is mystery, suspense, and a ton of action in this book. 

Slider by Pete Hautman

This book is unique. The main character, David, takes part in a competitive eating contest. It's also funny as David has a great sense of humor. But, it's a thoughtful book, too. It explores the relationship between David and his younger, autistic brother. A really great read. You can read more about what I think about it here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

#CyberPd: Week Four


This week is the fourth and final week of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group. The group is reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach by Vicki Vinton. This week we are reading the last two chapters of the book. You can find out more information about #cyberPD here.


Reflection

This week I had to replace the seat on my toilet. It may sound strange, but after I finished the task my first thought was Vicki Vinton's book, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. Those of you who have replaced a toilet seat before know that it's not an extremely complex thing to do, but for someone who has never repaired any part of a toilet I was thinking more along the lines of, "How am I going to fix this?" Well, I made my way to Home Depot (twice actually because the first time I bought an oblong seat instead of a round one). I asked a nice Home Depot employee if he thought I would be able to fix the seat myself and he replied with, "Oh, sure, you won't even need any tools." Once at home, with the instructions in hand, I removed the old toilet seat and replaced it with a new-and-improved slow-closing, guaranteed not to loosen version. I stared down at the glistening white, new seat feeling empowered. I had fixed the seat myself. I was presented with a problem and I figured out how to solve it. By myself. With a little encouragement and and an instruction sheet, I learned I could do something, that at first, I didn't think I could do. That brought my thoughts right to Vicki's book.

I felt empowered after my success because I fixed the seat myself. Independently. The goal of student independence and the necessity of allowing students to work at solving problems is at the heart of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. My experience fixing the toilet seat drove home how important it is to help students build a sense of agency, to get them to the point where they think, "I can do this." The last chapter of Vicki's book is all about supporting students during independent reading. She reminds us that conferences are about teaching readers something they can apply in their future reading. In conferences, the teachers role is to support students as they problem-solve for themselves. Vicki describes this process as one of researching. In a conference, a teachers asks open-ended, reader-focused questions to figure out the "how." In order to support readers during a conference, it's important to learn how students are figuring out problems and how they are making meaning. With this knowledge, the teacher can then notice and name what the student is doing and set the student up to problem solve. As students problem-solve independently they are building agency, growing their sense of empowerment as readers.

The focus on independence to build students' agency is one of the reasons I have enjoyed reading Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. There are so many useful strategies in the book. This includes new ideas that I can implement and other ideas that will just require a little tweaking of what I already do. I highly recommend the book and will suggest it to colleagues this school year.

This week the quote I picked from the book to share is one that highlights what is essential to reading instruction. For teachers to support students in the reading process, they must listen to students as they share their thinking about their reading. And, if we want students to grow as readers, they must be provided with the time to read.

Lucy and the Rocket Dog by Will Buckingham


As a child, the thought of traveling into space was fascinating to me. Watching live television coverage of a space shuttle filled me with wonder about what was beyond Earth's atmosphere and what it would be like to explore the outer realms of the universe. In Lucy and the Rocket Dog, the main character, Lucy, has a similar fascination, but it is her dog, Laika, who takes a journey into space.

Lucy builds her very own spaceship, the Prototype 1, in her backyard. One night, Laika enters it and accidentally launches himself into space. The book alternates between the stories of Lucy, who is heartbroken, and Laika, who, being a dog, is unsure what is happening to him. The story is both an exploration of space and the love that exists between human and pet.

There is a lot of science integrated into this book that will interest those who are curious about space. For girls, especially, Lucy is a role model with her love of science and dedication to her passion. This book is also for those who love a good dog story and one with a happy ending. The author provides an author's note at the end of the book explaining a true fact about a dog in space that influenced him in his writing. Lucy and the Rocket Dog is a story with adventure and heart.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy acquired from the publisher, Random House.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Slider by Pete Hautman


David can not only eat a lot, but he can eat very quickly. When he accidentally charges $2,000 to his mother's credit card, he enters a pizza eating contest to win the money he will need to pay her back. Winning the contest is not the only challenge in David's life. His friends, HeyMan and Cyn, are spending more time with one another and not always including David and much of David's time is consumed with caring for his younger, autistic brother.

The topic at the heart of the plot of this book, competitive eating, is a unique one for a middle grade novel. David's fascination with competitive eating is interesting and many young readers will be intrigued by the topic. This book is also a relatable one as it explores the family dynamic that David wrestles with as he is the middle child. His older sister is the perfect one and his younger brother is the one who needs constant care and attention. The book is also engaging because David is a personable character. Like many kids, at times he's responsible and at other times irresponsible. David's heart shines through, especially, in the interactions he has with his brother. This is a novel that readers will find funny, as well, as David has the ability to bring humor to even tense situations.

Slider is a unique, funny, and thoughtful book. David is a character readers won't want to let go of.

This book will be available in September. Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing my #bookexcursion group with an advanced reading copy of the book.

Monday, July 24, 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've Been Reading...

Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton

This is one of those books that's both absurd and funny. Danny McGee bet his sister that he can drink the sea so she gets him a very long, red and white striped straw and he does. Danny then starts swallowing everything, and I mean everything! There are a couple of fun twists that will surprise and delight young readers. With its rhyming text, this will be a fun book to read aloud.

Monster's New Undies by Samantha Berger

I don't know a kid who is not delighted when underwear is mentioned in a book. With "undies" being the topic of this book, I'm sure my students will want to read this again and again. Monster's mom brings him to Undie World to get a new pair of underwear, but none of them seem right. It's not just the word "undies," but also the rhymes and illustrations that make this a fun read.

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice Zinker is quite unique, considering she does her best thinking upside down. She plans a secret mission which she is determined to carry out even when her best friend starts spending more time with another classmate. The book is both funny and warm-hearted and the illustrations are charming. You can read more about my thoughts here. This book will be available in September.

Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Karma is about to start middle school, but there is much for her to be worried about. First, she has seventeen hairs on her upper lip. Her friend, Sara, is acting different around Karma and starts to spend more time with a new classmate. The situation at home isn't so easy either, as Karma's dad is out of a job and she misses her Dadima who has recently died. Karma's story is reflective of the experiences of those who are in their middle grade years. Her self-consciousness related to the changes her body is going through is something that middle school-aged children can relate to. Karma's challenges with friends and family are also realistic and can help to show young readers that the ups-and-downs of middle school are a part of growing up. Karma is humorous and kind. While wanting to make her situation better, she also tries to make the right choices. I think middle grade readers will enjoy reading about Karma and how she manages the challenges of middle school. This book publishes in August.

The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu

Clover's best friend, Danny, has suddenly come down with a mysterious illness. With her fascination with science, Clover will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Danny gets better. The book explores the power of friendship, love, and magic. There are many beautiful parts, but it will be one for readers who don't mind sad books. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Celebrate This Week: Social Media Friends

Thank you to Ruth Ayres at Ruth Ayres Writes. She hosts a link-up every week that focuses on the reasons we have to celebrate. This is my reason to celebrate, but you can visit her website to read about other bloggers' celebrations.

One of my favorite professional conferences to attend is the annual conference of the International Literacy Association. I attended this year's conference, which took place in Orlando, Florida, last weekend. While there I reflected on my first experience at ILA, which was also held in Orlando and, I believe, in 2011. Although much of the experience was the same, my days were filled with valuable learning provided by engaging speakers with a passion for literacy just as much then as now, something was different. Much has changed with technology, social media, and educator's abilities to stretch their professional learning networks beyond school walls and across the globe. This has made a difference in how I experience an in-person conference such as ILA.

I've used social media in the past few years to expand my own professional learning network and to learn professionally from others in different parts of the country. My experience at ILA this year was enhanced, as it wasn't before these possibilities existed, because I could connect with educators that I interact with on social media in person. Kerry, is a member of the Facebook group, Literacy Teacher Book Club, that I started to discuss professional texts with other educators. Lena Marie facilitates the Read4Fun group that I participate in through Twitter and Voxer. Lorraine is a member of the #bookexcursion group that I formed with other teachers and librarians to read and share children's literature. I was lucky to meet each of these educators at the conference in person. In person, we continued the conversations we have through social media about literacy teaching and books and began new conversations based on our shared experiences at ILA. This week I celebrate these educators and all social media friends who haved help to grow my knowledge of literacy and teaching. 


Friday, July 21, 2017

#CyberPD Week Three


This week is week three of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group. The group is reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach by Vicki Vinton. You can find out more information about #cyberPD here.


Reflection

This week #CyberPD is discussing chapters seven and eight of Vicki Vinton's book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. In each chapter, Vinton gives an example of a problem-solving session along with an explanation of core practices used within the session. One chapter is focused on supporting students as they interpret text and the other on understanding nonfiction. As I read through each problem-solving session, I found there was a lot of valuable information to digest. I find myself rereading multiple times and making a lot of notes. The examples that Vinton provides in the book are helping me to deepen my understanding of the reading process and how I can talk about it with my students. Reading is a process of inquiry, in which readers notice patterns and build understanding bit by bit, and our reading instruction is authentic when we engage students in this process.


My Takeaways

  • Interpreting a text requires studying the text as a whole; meaning is made when the patterns of a text are considered together.
  • Thinking about a text changes as we read. Using words such as, "maybe," "could," and "might" opens up minds to the possibility that ideas could change.
  • Understanding nonfiction involves more than just knowing facts. In order to make sense of nonfiction readers must understand how facts are related and what the facts imply.
  • Nonfiction presents unique challenges for readers and confusion is a normal part of the process. Students are able to learn from nonfiction text when they are able to work through the confusion.


A Favorite Quote

I chose this quote this week because it gets at the heart of a problem-solving approach. Students need to be allowed the opportunity to do the real work of reading. Letting students take on more responsibility and withholding scaffolding so they can do this real work can seem like a risk. Vicki Vinton assures us that this is a risk worth taking and, although instruction may get messy, students will be empowered to become deep, engaged thinkers and readers.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes


Beatrice is an out-of-the box thinker who does her best thinking when she is hanging upside down. She has planned a secret mission, Operation Upside, with her best friend, Lenny. On the first day of third grade, clad in her ninja suit, Beatrice is ready to put her plan into action, but Lenny has a new friend and is less than enthusiastic about Operation Upside. Beatrice, it seems, will go to any lengths to keep her friend and carry out her mission.

There are many qualities to love about Beatrice. She is determined, but also unique, imaginative, and humorous. Although Beatrice's actions are sometimes frowned upon, especially by her teacher, her intentions stem from kindness. Beatrice remains true to herself even when others aren't accepting of her uniqueness.

There is both humor and warmth in this book. Beatrice is a fun character who finds herself in a predicament that will amuse young readers. Beatrice can also show young readers something about kindness, friendship, and accepting others in spite of their differences. Anyone who has ever felt a little different will be able to relate to Beatrice. The illustrations, mostly black and white with a splash of color, are charming. This is a great book to recommend to those who enjoyed books such as Dory Fantasmagory, Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, and Hazy Bloom and the Tomorrow Power.

Thank you to the author, Shelley Johannes, for sharing an advanced reader copy of this book with my #bookexcursion group. She also shared a lovely illustration of Beatrice.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Monday! What Are Your 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've Been Reading...

Super Manny Stands Up! by Kelly DiPucchio

Manny has a collection of capes that help him battle the imaginary evil that lurks around him, including angry zombie bears and alien robots. Manny also has an invisible, "top secret undercover cape" that he wears at school. One day when Manny witnesses a schoolmate being unkind to another, he uses his cape for dealing with more than just the imaginary. Manny's imaginary world will engage readers, but Manny's real-world experience will teach them something about courage and standing up for others. I've read a few of Kelly DiPucchio's books to my first and second graders and they love them. I will definitely be sharing this one with them, as well.

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner

Fox wants to be a fearsome predator, but keeps falling a little short. When a wolf teams up with him, he steals three eggs from the farm in hopes that they will hatch and they can eat them. The chicks hatch, but they think fox is their mother and soon they start to think they are actually foxes. With fox's scheming and the chick's naivety, the story is silly and comical. The relationship between the fox and the chicks is sweet, too. This graphic novel reminded me of the picture book, Mother Bruce by Ryan Higgins, another story of an animal being mistaken for one's mother.

Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster

Isadora, being half fairy and half vampire, is quite unique. When her parents decide to send her to school she does not know whether she should go to fairy school or vampire school. Isadora's experiences at school are amusing. Although she is conflicted about where she belongs, Isadora remains true to herself and learns something about being different. This is the first book in a new series that will be great to recommend to early chapter book readers. 

Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

This is a wonderful middle grade read that will publish in August. Middle grade readers will be able to relate to the challenges of the main character, Emily, as she begins middle school. The story is charming and touching. You can read more about my thoughts here

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Glaser

The Vanderbeekers are a family of five living in New York City, loving their house, neighborhood and community, but they are told by their recluse, and very grumpy, landlord that he is not renewing their lease. Not wanting to move, the Vanderbeeker children brainstorm and put plans into action to try and get their landlord to change his mind. All the children are quite charming and very determined. This is a lovely story about a family and community pulling together to make change and help one another. This book publishes in October.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

This book is as wonderful as everyone has been saying it is. If you haven't heard about it, which I can't imagine many haven't, it's told from the perspective of an oak tree named Red. Red notices that not everyone is accepting of the new family who has just moved in nearby. Red, is also a wishtree, so she has a plan to help. This is a unique, heartwarming, and hopeful story. For a chapter book, it is on the shorter side, making it very suitable for a classroom read aloud. I'm sure many teachers will have this book on their list to read aloud to their classes next school year. It will be available in September. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari


Emily Murphy is starting middle school with her best friend Hazel, but their friendship seems to be changing. Emily and Hazel have always been fans of the Unicorn Chronicles book series, but Hazel is not showing as much interest anymore and Emily isn't fitting in with Hazel's group of field hockey friends who care more about clothes and boys than unicorns. Emily's home life is also presenting it's own set of challenges. Her parents are recently divorced and her father has a new girlfriend and is trying too hard to make them a new family. Emily's also feeling a little uneasy about the changes that will occur now that her sister is returning home after getting treatment for her anorexia.

Middle grade readers will be able to relate to Emily's struggles as she navigates life and friendships. The portrayal of middle grade friendships is quite realistic. Emily is an endearing character whose journey will make you grin at times and tear up at others. Throughout the book, she strives to "be the best you," something that she can teach readers how to do, as well.

Jennifer Maschari's book is wonderful for its engaging, realistic plot, but also for her lovely style of writing. From lines, such as the opening, "Glitter is everywhere" to descriptions like, "Everything about Hazel is loud and clattery - like a cymbal clashing" she pulls the reader into the story. Then there are lines like this that hold so much truth: "Maybe this is the thing to know about growing up: There are some things in life you've got to hold on to. And there are other things you've got to let go. The key is knowing the difference."

Middle grade books like Things That Surprise You are the kind we need more of because they are the kind that young readers can relate and learn from.

I thank Jennifer Maschari for providing an advanced reader copy of this book to read and share with my #bookexcursion group. The lines quoted in this post were taken from this advanced reader copy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#CyberPD Week Two

This week is week two of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group. The group is reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach by Vicki Vinton. You can find out more information about #cyberPD here.


Reflection

This week, #cyberpd is reading and discussing chapters five and six of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. Section One of the book focused on the theoretical foundation and beliefs that are the basis of practices that involve teaching reading as problem-solving. Section Two of the book offers practical strategies and examples of what a problem-based approach looks like in action. Chapters five and six show that it is possible to create instructional opportunities for students that are grounded in the belief that students should be involved in authentic and meaningful reading. The core practices and teaching examples that Vinton includes in the book also show that teacher decision-making plays a big role in students' reading instruction. The teaching of reading is complex because our students are all unique and vary in their abilities, ideas, and life experiences. There is no script to follow, so we need to know the students in front of us, know our beliefs about reading instruction, and know what it means to engage in the reading process.

My Takeaways

  • Reading instruction must support student independence. In the examples of small group reading sessions that Vinton provides, students are engaged in reading or listening, talking, thinking, and figuring out problems that arise in a text. Students are doing the work, students are doing the learning. The open-ended questions that Vinton poses to students serve to build students understanding that they are responsible for doing the thinking work of reading. 
  • In a problem-solving approach, the teacher is a facilitator of student learning. In Vinton's examples students are given opportunities to turn and talk and to share their ideas. The teacher facilitates this sharing and meaning-making by probing students to think more deeply with questions such as, "How did you figure that out?" The teaching examples in the book, underscore the importance of teacher language. Language should show that students' ideas are honored and there is no one right answer. Our language can help open students' minds to the deep thinking we want them to do and create an environment in which they are willing to take risks in their thinking and sharing.
  • A problem-based approach to reading truly builds on students' strengths. Rather than model for students and then see what they can do, a problem-based approach involves letting students think first and show what they know. The teacher's role becomes one of noticing and naming what students have done. This reversal of the gradual release of responsibility, allows teachers to build on students' strengths, but also helps to immerse and engage them in the complex work of reading.

A Favorite Quote

I choose this quote as a favorite this week because it speaks to student independence and, also, to the joy of reading. If we don't let students wrestle with text while they are sitting in front of us, at our reading table with books in their hand, we are lessening the chances that they will persevere when reading on their own, during independent reading time and at home, when we are not there to swoop in and rescue them. The joy of reading is not in someone telling us what to think about a text, it's in the thinking that we do for ourselves as we read, it's in the interaction between the words on the page and the ideas in our minds, it's in the connections we make between what's in the pages of a book and what's in our hearts. We need to move out of students way a bit and let them experience this for themselves.

 

Monday, July 10, 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've Been Reading...


Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clarke Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating

This is a book to add to the list of wonderful picture book biographies that have been written recently. With an interesting story, engaging writing, and lovely illustrations, this is a book that will be well-read by those readers curious about scientists and ocean life. Eugenie Clarke's story is an important one to tell because she shows the importance of following one's passion and staying the course to achieve a dream even when others think it's not possible. 

The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! (The Wish List #1) by Sarah Aronson

Isabelle is a fairy godmother in-training, but can't seem to remember all the rules she needs to learn. To pass the test she has to grant her practice princess a wish, but this is not so easy since her princess is actually a normal girl. This story is full of fairy godmothers, magic, and sparkles, but there is also a sweet story about friendship. Isabelle proves her heart is in the right place and she is all the things a fairy godmother needs to be: kind, determined, and full of gusto. Young readers who enjoy fairy tale type stories are sure to be enchanted with this one and be eager for the next in the series.

14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop

I think this book will appeal to many middle grade readers. Maddie's family has been left without a home after a tornado hits their neighborhood. A neighbor opens up their home to Maddie's family, as well as the family of the boy who Maddie has a crush on. Maddie is dealing with the loss of her house, but also the drama that comes with being a middle schooler. Maddie experiences jealousy and worry as she navigates her friendships and first crush and I think many young readers will be able to relate.

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske

This is a book with a character I love. Kat Greene's life isn't easy, for a few reasons, but mainly because her mother seems to become obsessed with cleaning. As Kat navigates the challenges of her life she proves to be thoughtful, sweet, and funny. I enjoyed this story and I think middle grade readers will, too. You can read more about my thoughts here. This book will be available in August.

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin

Like Paul Griffin's previous middle grade novel, When Friendship Followed Me Home, this is a book that touches the heart. It's about a boy and a pig who thinks he's a dog, but it's also about a boy's journey to figure out what it means to be a friend and a hero. I have written a little more about my thoughts here. This book does not publish until September, but it's one to keep an eye out for. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Celebrate This Week: #BookExcursion


Thank you to Ruth Ayres at Ruth Ayres Writes. She hosts a link-up every week that focuses on the reasons we have to celebrate. I have not participated in Celebrate This Week in quite a bit and when I do post it is not regularly, but now that it is summer I am hoping to do more writing. Thinking and writing about a reason to celebrate is always fun!


This week I celebrate #BookExcursion, a newly formed group that I am happy to be a part of. #BookExcursion, is a book reviewing group of sorts. This is not a new idea, other groups like this one have been in existence for some time now. Basically, we read advanced reader copies of soon to be published books and share our thoughts with each other, the authors, and a wider audience of educators through Twitter and our blogs. When we have a copy of a book, one person reads it and makes notes in it, that person mails the book to another person in the group, and this continues until all have read the book. I am discovering that this is a fun way to read along with others and interact with authors of children's literature. By being a part of this group, I get to read up-and-coming books, making me aware of what is out there for the middle grade readers I teach. Authors and publishers have even graciously sent us copies of books to review and share with each other. Melissa Roske agreed to share her book, Kat Greene Comes Clean, with the group. You can read my thoughts about it here. Dial Books sent my group a copy of Paul Griffin's Saving Marty which you can read more about here. Both books are wonderful. Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz is due to arrive in the mail soon. I am looking forward to reading many more great books along with a group of teachers and librarians who are as passionate about reading as I am. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kat Greene Comes Clean Book Review

Life isn't so easy for eleven-year old Kat Greene. Her mother is always cleaning, to the point where Kat is beginning to get frustrated and worried. Her mother's habits, such as her obsessive hand washing and the need to wipe down canned goods at the grocery story, do not seem normal to Kat. On top of this, Kat has been assigned a less than desirable role in the school play and her best friend's obsession with a crush threatens their friendship.

Kat is not always sure how to navigate these challenges in her life, but she works through them the best she can, always keeping the feelings of others in mind. Kat has many traits to love. She is sweet, humorous, and a good friend. Her character is true-to-life, making her the story a believable one. I think middle grade readers will relate to her and see themselves in many of the moments that Kat experiences.

This is an engaging and readable book. I wanted to keep reading to make sure everything would work out for Kat. There were also parts that made me chuckle. I think young readers will be interested in reading about Kat and how she copes with the challenges of her life. She can teach young readers much about understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin


Renzo keeps the runt piglet that has been left on his farm after his mom has taken the mother and the rest of the litter to be auctioned off. He names the piglet Marty after his father who died, before Renzo was born while serving overseas in a war. Marty, who acts more like a dog than a pig, becomes Renzo's loyal and lovable companion. Inevitably, Marty grows quite a lot in size and having him as a pet becomes quite challenging, especially in the eyes of Renzo's mom. Renzo's determination to keep Marty plays a role in his journey of self-discovery as he learns about friendship, family, and heroes. Renzo's relationship with his friend, Paloma, also brings sweetness to the story. Some of the content of the book is heavy as Renzo learns the truth about his father that has been kept secret. This book is recommended for the higher end of middle grade. As did Paul Griffin's previous middle grade book, When Friendship Followed Me Home, Saving Marty is a book that will touch readers' hearts.

I thank the publisher, Dial Books for Younger Readers, for an ARC of the book. This book is currently being circulated among the members of my #bookexcursion group. Check out the hashtag on Twitter to find out other's thoughts and what else we are reading.

Monday, July 3, 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


This is What I've Been Reading...


Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari wakes up and is ready to jump off the diving board, but once he and his family are at the public swimming pool he loses his courage. Jabari hesitates and makes excuses, but luckily he has a supportive and encouraging dad. This book is a slice of life story about a boy who can teach readers about risk-taking, optimism, and courage. The illustrations are interesting and show all the emotions Jabari is feeling. This book would make a great read aloud and also be useful as a writing mentor text. It is really a lovely picture book. 

A True Home (Heartwood Hotel, Book 1) by Kallie George 

Mona, an orphaned mouse, discovers that home is where the heart is when she happens upon a hotel inside the trunk of a tree. Heartwood Hotel sounds like a delightful and cozy place to visit with a heart carved into the door and the wonderful, kind creatures that reside inside. The story is fanciful and sweet. There are quite a few illustrations throughout the book as well. This is a book that would be perfect for readers who don't have the stamina yet for longer chapter books. 

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey

Eddie is a shiny green bug who loves books and lives with his family in Room 19 at Ferny Creek Elementary School. His aunt has gone missing in the library so Eddie goes on an adventure to save her. When he gets to the library he finds his Aunt Min, but also discovers he needs to save the library, as well. Eddie provides an amusing perspective on the library and reading and readers will root for him as he faces many close encounters with danger. The author referenced quite a few popular works of children's literature in the book, too, and the illustrations, done by Victoria Jamieson, are lovely.  

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby 

Tess, Theo, and Jamie live in an apartment which is being sold to a real estate developer. In order to try and keep their home, they are determined to solve the Old York Cipher. This is quite a mystery. It's an exciting and fun read, with some elements of fantasy and interesting characters. The ending will have you eager to know what adventure awaits Tess, Theo, and Jamie in the next book.