Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Half a Month of Writing

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Today ends my first ever Slice of Life Story Challenge. I joined when Two Writing Teachers sent out the invitation to latecomers, so technically I have not participated in the entire challenge. When I first began, even though I only needed to write for half a month, I wasn't sure if I could keep up with writing every day. Well, fifteen posts later, it turns out that I could do it! On this last day, it seems fitting to reflect on the challenge. These are my three big take aways:

  • Writing every day is hard! Writing isn't something that comes easy to me so there were days when I had to force myself to write. Even on days when I didn't want to write, I was always glad I did. This is kind of how I feel about exercise sometimes. Like exercise is good for my body, I think writing has been good for my mind.
  • Some days, I quickly came up with an idea to write about and, other days, I spent the entire day thinking before an idea popped into my head. This made me think about my students and how sometimes they are expected to come up with an idea quickly, such as on a state assessment - this doesn't seem like a realistic expectation.
  • A writing community is important. I have enjoyed the Slice of Life writing community because it inspired my own writing. Knowing that others were writing every day and sometimes struggling with it, too, made me feel like I wasn't alone on this writing journey. Reading others' posts has also made me feel less alone in life. Reading others' perspectives and thoughts has provided me comfort during a trying time, but also possibilities for how I can respond differently to life or do better. Writing is truly a way to connect and learn about and from each other.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers and the entire writing community for this wonderful half a month of writing and sharing!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, and share my recent reads. This month I am also participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information. 

Spending so much time at home, I have much more time to read. But, with all that's going on in the world and the challenges of figuring out how to support learners from home, I've found that concentrating on reading is not so easy. I would think, I would have read a lot more than usual, but I really haven't. I am glad for the reading I have been able to do.

Recent Reads...


Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton

I love this book! Little Crab and Big Crab are at the edge of the ocean. Little Crab takes slow, hesitant steps towards the ocean and starts to question the decision to go in while Big Crab encourages him. An enormous wave sweeps them under and Little Crab discovers the wonder, beauty, and adventure of the ocean depths. This is a sweet story of courage and friendship. 

Knot Cannot by Tiffany Stone and Mike Lowery

Knot is envious of all the things that Snake can do and he cannot. A bird puts Snake in danger and Knot puts her greatest strength to use. This is a clever and humorous story with a message about appreciating one's strengths. 

Brooklyn Bailey, the Missing Dog by Amy Sohn, Orna LePape and Libby VanderPloeg

Yotam's dog is startled and runs away. Yotam's neighbors assist in helping to bring Bailey back home. This is not just a story of a dog who finds his way back home, but also one about community.

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Frankie and her twin sister are very different from each other and have a rocky relationship. Frankie believes it's her sister's fault that her friendship with Colette, who she has known since kindergarten, came to an end. Now Colette is missing and Frankie becomes involved in figuring out what happened. This is a mystery and a heartfelt story of friendship. It's also an insightful book, as Frankie is neurodiverse, and readers get a glimpse into her thoughts and emotions.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Daffodils Will Show Up


This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

One of my favorite places is Newport, RI. Luckily, I live close enough that I can spend frequent time there. I love the beaches. Some of my favorite restaurants are there. There is a coffee shop that gets plentiful sun in the morning and through the afternoon where I enjoy going to sip a green tea and read. A tennis match is really fun on the grass courts at The International Tennis Hall of Fame. Running on the Cliff Walk, a path that runs along the coast, or biking on Ocean Drive provide stunning views of the ocean that take my breath away every time. There's always people around, too. No matter what time of year, there are people enjoying the sights, the restaurants, the beaches.



I often do my shopping at a wonderful market in Newport that specializes in organic products. That's where I went yesterday to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables and while I was there I took a drive around. The city was the quietest I've ever seen it. There were little people walking around. With restaurants only open for takeout and the shops closed, there's not much reason for people to be there. There were still some people enjoying walks on the beach, but definitely not the typical crowd for a Saturday. 



I was heading out of Newport, towards home, when I noticed the daffodils. Every April, Newport celebrates the beginning of spring with Daffodil Days. There's a week or so of festivities as the daffodils are in bloom. Daffodils have been planted in various places throughout the city and even businesses and residents have displays of daffodils. Over a million daffodils have been planted throughout Newport since Daffodil Days began. Daffodil Days are joyous days, filled with the anticipation of the warm weather to come. The color brings more beauty to a city already filled with remarkable views. 


 

Daffodil Days have been canceled for this year, but the daffodils are showing up regardless. The celebration will not be the same this year, but we can still celebrate the beauty of the flower that is a harbinger of spring and a symbol of new beginnings. As the daffodils continue to bloom, we can anticipate the better days that are to come.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Five Ways that Technology Made Me Happy This Week

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Social distancing and sheltering in our homes is quite a new way of living. There's so much I'm missing like going to the coffee shop to read, meeting friends and family for dinner, and going to work where I can see students and colleagues in person. As challenging as it is, I feel very lucky that we're living in a time in which technology makes parts of life easier and provides us options to connect with each other. I keep thinking about life growing up in the eighties and how much of what we are doing to connect with each other today wouldn't have been possible then. As I reflect on the week, I am thinking about the ways that technology has made me happy this week.

  • Through videoconferencing, I participated in a group workout with about fifty other people. The workout usually takes place on the beach once a week, but instead everyone followed along from their homes.
  • I ordered and had delivered right to my door step some things I need (another pair of lounge pants) and things I don't need, but make me happy (felt tip pens).
  • My book review group, #BookExcursion, met up virtually to chat about life, teaching and learning, and books. This is the first time we've done this and it was a lot of fun.
  • Through two Facebook group pages (one devoted to exercise and the other to books), I connected with colleagues. We're sharing what we're doing to stay fit and what we're reading both to motivate each other and just to stay in touch.
  • I worked from home as I met with teachers to plan ways to support students and connected with classes through videoconferencing and Google Classroom.
In the eighties, we had snail mail and telephone party lines. Connecting to others definitely would have been much harder than it is today, so this week I am grateful for all the ways technology has helped to make my life easier and better.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friendship and Spring Air

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Yesterday was one of those days that hint at the warmer, greener days that are coming. There was bright sun and the temperature rose into the fifties. March days often still require a jacket in New England, so it's always welcome when we get a sweater-only day.

I actually almost missed it. I had gone outside for a run early in the morning before the sun had fully risen and the temperature was still chilly. Then I spent the morning in front of my laptop checking and responding to emails, attending a videoconference, and gathering ideas and resources to support students' remote learning. If not for the message a friend had sent me in the early afternoon, I think I would have been oblivious to the treat that Mother Nature had sent.

My friend had suggested a walk on the bike path in the town where she lives with the promise that we'd stay six feet away from each other. We met up in the parking lot. We haven't seen each other for months, but we didn't hug. We walked together, at an appropriate social distance. We chatted about teaching and learning - she's also an educator - and about life. This was the first time all week that I saw someone in person for more than just a passing few seconds.

The isolation of the week has been hard, so the friendship and the spring air were just what I needed. And to think I might have missed this opportunity! Feeling these days like my laptop is an extension of my body, I am going to make a more conscious effort to step away from the screen every day.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Courage is Strength and a Choice

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

A topic I've been thinking about recently is courage. Courage is strength and it comes in many forms. It can be big or small or loud or quiet. Courage is extraordinary acts, but also every day ones, as well. It's running into danger, but also a step forward into uncertainty or a breath in the face of doubt.

Recently, I took a survey that helped me to identify my character strengths. I don't need that survey to tell me that exhibiting courage is not one of them. I'm not a risk-taker. I am most comfortable with the familiar. I like to know what is coming next. I have a strong drive for perfection, so I tend to follow the rules and play it safe by sticking to what I know best.

As a teacher these days, I feel that I am in, what is for me, uncharted waters. Although I believe there is always a need to grow and learn professionally, generally I am pretty confident in my abilities to provide the best literacy instruction possible to my students. My confidence to do this virtually is at about zero. Teaching and learning does not feel familiar to me right now and it all feels uncomfortable. Whether it's a strength of mine or not, I need to summon all my courage to navigate the path of what is our new reality of schooling.

Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
In Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton, Little Crab and Big Crab stand at the edge of the ocean. Little Crab takes very slow, hesitant steps while thinking that maybe going in the ocean is not such a great idea after all and even asking to go home. Big Crab stands by Little Crab's side and provides encouragement the entire time. When an enormous wave whooshes the two crabs deep into the ocean, Little Crab finds himself in a world of wonder and adventure that he didn't know existed. Today and tomorrow and for however long it takes until we return to teaching and learning as we know it, I have to be Little Crab. One step forward and then another. Courage is a strength, but it's also a choice.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Using Strengths in New Ways for Happiness

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Over the weekend, I started the course, The Science of Well-Being, modeled after a popular course on well-being and happiness taught at Yale University. I've completed the first week of the course and have already gained insight into the concept of happiness and well-being. The course is intended to provide information related to the science of happiness, but also to encourage participants to actually practice habits that will support happiness and well-being. One of the underlying principles of the course is that knowing is not merely enough. In order to make something happen or to change, we actually need to put something into practice based on what we know. Throughout each week of the course, there is a habit related to happiness to put into practice.

The habit to practice the first week is using your signature strengths. The course included a link to a survey that revealed my top strengths. The recommended goal is to try and use these strengths in different ways each day of the week. According to the survey, one of my top strengths is honesty. If I wanted to use the strength of honesty in a different way, I could do something such as write a poem revealing an inner truth.

Another strength I have, which doesn't surprise me, is the love of learning. To use this strength in a different way, I did some research on running. Although running is one of my favorite things, it's not a topic I spend too much time learning about. I sometimes read up on the newest running sneakers or exercises that may benefit runners, but I've never delved into any science associated with running. A Google Search led me to this video, The Connection Between Running and the Brain. Having been a runner for many years, I know from personal experience that running is good for the brain. It helps to clear my mind and to relieve stress. What I didn't know before watching the video is that there is scientific evidence that supports the idea that running is beneficial to the brain and that there is a connection between running and mindfulness and meditation. Now when someone asks me about the benefits of running, I can say more than, "it's good exercise."

Reflecting on just this one moment in which I used my signature strengths, I can see how it's a practice that supports happiness. Putting strengths to use is a way to focus on what one is best at doing and that provides a sense of empowerment and joy.

I have started a Voxer Chat to discuss this course further with other educators who are taking it. If you are taking the course and interested in joining the chat, let me know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Writing An Etheree

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Many children's book authors have created videos to share lessons, ideas, and thoughts about writing that will be helpful to kids who are learning from home. As an adult, I've enjoyed watching some of these videos and getting insight into the writing process and ideas for my own writing. Author and poet Liz Garton Scanlon has shared a video, Poetry Prompt: Writing Gratitude Etherees. I, of course, am familiar with the Haiku which is a syllabic poetry format, but the Etheree is new to me. Liz explains in her video that an Etheree is a ten-line poem, with the first line having one syllable and each of the other lines having a number of syllables that is one more than the previous line. Although it's not a poem of gratitude, like Liz's poem which she shares in her video, I have tried my hand at this form. Here is my Etheree:

I Write 

sun
blue sky
wisps of clouds
my window view
brings me happiness
warmth and light surround me
sharing the words of my heart
sitting at my kitchen table
thoughts, emotions, questions fill the page
soaking up sunshine, I write my story

Writing this Etheree was a challenge, but a fun challenge!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, and share my recent reads. This month I am also participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information. 

I utilize the library a lot. Many times, I like to pre-read books before I purchase them for my classroom, so the library comes in handy for doing that. All of the local libraries are now closed, as are the book stores near me. Luckily, I went to pick up my holds at the library a few days before they decided to close. I have that small stack of library books and a bigger stack of my own books that I can read while I spend my days at home. I have a stockpile of books like others have a stockpile of toilet paper. There is a tiny part of me that fears that I will run out of things to read, but in these days of online ordering and ebooks, I will probably be fine!

Recent Reads...


The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bao Luu

His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares the story of his childhood and how he came to his position as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, as well as his beliefs about the necessity of compassion. Informative and inspirational.

Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss

This is a stunning book that tells the story of a family of horned owls through Haiku and gorgeous illustrations. It's an engaging story as two owlets are born, escape danger, learn to fly, and finally become fledgling owls who set off on their own. Through the story and the end pages, readers will learn information about owls.

Do I Have to Wear a Coat?: A Journey Through the Seasons by Rachel Isadora

This is a delightful exploration of what kids do during each season of the year. It celebrates each season by showing the fun that each time of the year brings. The illustrations are charming and joyful.

The Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya and Miguel Ordóñez

This is a fun, rhyming version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff interspersed with Spanish vocabulary. It's an amusing read that also tells a story of unexpected friendship. A glossary of Spanish words is included at the beginning.

The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Cassie's mother has early-onset Alzheimer's. Cassie is trying to understand what's happening to her family and make sure her mom is happy. Her friendship with her best friend, Bailey, has also changed as Cassie has been coping with her family situation. This is a poignant and powerful story about family and friendship and one of those books that will help to show readers possibilities for navigating the big challenges in their lives. Thanks to the publisher for sharing an advance review copy with my book review group, #BookExcursion.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Put Your Mask on First Before Assisting Others

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Put your mask on first before assisting others.

We've all heard that reminder every time we've sat on an airplane. This week, I've also heard it a number of times in relation to teaching and learning. I first heard Clare Landrigan say it during a virtual meeting of a group of reading specialists talking about how to support literacy learners through online learning. A day or two later, I read the same message in a Twitter post from The Educator Collaborative. As educators, many of us think of others first, but in order to be at our best we need to make sure we take care of our own well-being, too.


Teacher self-care and my own self-care has been on my mind during this time of the coronavirus pandemic which has impacted both our personal lives and our teaching lives. I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to feel less stressed and overwhelmed. I'm starting to make a list of self-care strategies that I can put into practice. Breath. Read. Exercise. Think positively. Take a bath. Listen to eighties music. These strategies can only help to calm my mind and bring me some happiness.

Happiness has been a theme for me this past school year. At the beginning of the school year, a personal/medical issue prompted me to consider my happiness and how I could find more of it. I've been thinking about happiness ever since and even more so now. I've been intrigued by a course taught at Yale University on well-being, Psychology and the Good Life, by Professor Laurie Santos since I read about it a few years ago. A version of this course, Yale's most popular, The Science of Well-Being, is available for free on Coursera (you can read about it in this article). Since my days are now spent almost entirely at home and I have oodles of time, I enrolled in the course. I completed the first week of the course yesterday and I already feel like I have gotten some good insight into the concept of happiness and the practices that contribute to well-being. For my own self-care, I think this course is just what I need right now. If anyone else happens to find it interesting and decides to enroll, let me know because I'd love to extend learning even further by chatting with others about it.

Some Books I've Read Recently Related to Happiness and Well-Being


Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones) by Nataly Kogan

The Rabbit Effect: Living Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness by Kelli Harding

Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness by Katie Egan Cunningham

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Ten Happy Moments of the Week

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

One week has passed since my school district decided to close. In many ways, it feels more like weeks, or months, or even an eternity since the last school day. In other ways, I'm feeling like it was just a short time ago that our lives consisted of the normalcy that we are all craving right now. All I can say is that this week has been a lot. A lot of emotions. A lot of change. A lot of different. I know that getting through these trying times will require a lot of gratitude and a lot of joy found in small moments.

With that said, to end this week, I am reflecting on the positive. Here are my Ten Happy Moments of the Week:
  • Driving by the ocean
  • Breaking in new running sneakers
  • Receiving texts and messages from family and friends checking in with me
  • Catching up on books in my to-be-read stack
  • Connecting virtually with colleagues and educators from across the country 
  • Finding a grocery story with ground turkey in stock
  • Enjoying the sunshine streaming through my windows on a sunny day
  • Waking up whenever I choose rather than when the alarm rings
  • Spending the day in comfy lounge clothes
  • Chatting and joking with neighbors as we stand six feet or more away from each other
I hope everyone has found their own happiness in small moments this past week.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Reflection on the Big Picture

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

One thing I am doing lots of these days is reading. I am a "book juggler," someone who reads multiple books at the same time. Typically, I always have three books going: a grown-up/personal read, a middle grade read, and a professional read. Currently, my personal read is The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver (really enjoying it so far), my middle grade read is Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick (an upcoming book that publishes in May), and my professional read is Engaging Literate Minds: Developing Children's Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives, K-3 by Peter Johnston and others (if Peter Johnston's name is on it then I need to read it!).


My professional read is always the book that takes me the longest to finish. I love stories and the escape they provide me, so I usually flip through the pages of a novel at a pretty rapid pace in anticipation of what is coming next. With my professional reads, I'm frequently stopping to highlight, write notes in the margin, and think about how what I'm reading applies to my own teaching and my students' learning. A quote from Engaging Literate Minds that made me stop and reflect is the one below.


When I think about the big picture for my students, I think about how I want them to have the literacy skills they will need to be successful learners, but also, ultimately, engaged and empowered citizens. I want them to read, write, speak, think, and listen in ways that will allow them to understand their world and communicate with others. I truly believe literacy is power and when we open doors to literacy for all learners, we help to make the world a better place. 

Johnston, P., Champeau, K., Hartwig, A., Helmer, S., Komar, M., Krueger, T., & McCarthy, L. (2020). Engaging literate minds: Developing children's social, emotional, and intellectual lives, K-3. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse.



Thursday, March 19, 2020

What Will Be Etched Upon Our Way of Being?

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

Walking through my grandmother's kitchen when I was growing up, seeing a paper towel drying in the sun on the window sill or a piece of aluminum foil in the dish drying rack would not have been uncommon. My grandmother believed anything from paper towels to aluminum foil to plastic baggies to empty margarine tubs could, and should be, rewashed and reused. My grandmother also never left a scrap of food on her plate. In fact, she would scrape any scraps left on anyone else's plate onto her own and eat it before she let it go to waste. There was also no reason to turn up the heat on a cold winter day, even in New England, because bundling up with an extra sweater or blanket was more cost effective than paying a higher heating bill. Nobody I know has embodied the saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!" more than my grandmother.

When I was told my grandmother lived through the Great Depression and I grew to know how people's lives were impacted during that time in history, I understood my grandmother's behavior on a deeper level. Her frugality wasn't eccentricity; it was what she came to know as a way to survive and a means for doing all she could to take care of her family. Living through the Great Depression etched a way of being into my grandmother's life that she carried with her for decades and through the entire rest of her living years.

As I think about the coronavirus pandemic that we are living through right now, I wonder what will become etched upon our ways of being and what we will carry with us through the years to come. My greatest hope is that we will carry forward the compassion, the kindness, the resilience, and the spirit of community, even while we practice social distancing, that will be interwoven through these trying times.

I'm sure, too, that there will be some of us who, having lived through the coronavirus pandemic, will always and forever be certain to have a stockpile of toilet paper on hand.

Recommended Reading: One of the best middle grade books I have read so far this year, Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk, is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the time period of the Great Depression. It's a beautiful story, set in the mountains of Maine, that explores themes related to family, compassion, resilience, and hope. As I read it, I was completely transported to another time and place and was still thinking about the characters long after I finished it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Both/And Mindset

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

The concept of both/and was not one I was familiar with before reading the article, "A Therapist's Guide to Emotional Health in a Pandemic," by Lori Gottlieb. I had recently read Gottlieb's book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, and found it to be smart and funny, so when this article came across my radar I thought it might provide some useful insight.

Yesterday, as I watched the briefing from the President and his coronavirus task force, part of me wanted to keep watching, so I stay aware of the most current information. The other part of me wanted to turn off the television and escape into my own virus-free thoughts and activities. I know the coronavirus pandemic has caused loss and suffering and heartache across the globe. But, I know I still want to laugh and find the joy in life. The last few days have been consumed with trying to process all the emotions that I feel regarding what is happening in the world.

Reading Gottlieb's article has helped to give me some clarity. Both/and is a mindset and allows us to acknowledge that a situation is terrible while also embracing what is positive and joyful. I can feel terrible about the loss and suffering and heartache that is occurring and also find joy in the books that I now have time to read, in the opportunity to sleep a little later, in the connections I am able to have with friends and family from a distance, and in the trivial aspects of life that just make me happy. For me, the both/and mindset is what will help me from feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Better Late Than Never

This month I am participating in the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Visit Two Writing Teachers for more information.

I have always wanted to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. Each February, the idea pops into my mind, but I've never been able to make myself commit to a month of writing. It briefly crossed my mind again this year, but I told myself that this definitely could not be the year I try the challenge. Back in February, I was in the midst of planning a conference, the 51st Annual Conference of the Massachusetts Reading Association, planned for April 2-3, 2020. As Conference Chair, I started planning over a year and a half ago. As I was pouring my heart and soul into what was going to be a stellar event, putting time into writing wouldn't have been feasible.

Enter the coronavirus. Suddenly, I was not planning a conference any more. Joy and anticipation turned into disappointment and heartbreak. It turns out that canceling a conference is a process in and of itself. There is work to be done, but it's not work that brings with it the same energy and joy. Seeing the invitation to join the challenge as a latecomer, I thought maybe this should be the year to participate. I could benefit from the community, the connection, and the power of story.

Part of me has always wondered if I could ever keep up with a month of daily posts. Writing half a month of posts seems like a good way to try out the challenge and ease myself into the idea of writing a post every day. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for the invitation and to Margaret Simon for asking the question about latecomers. You never know...I could be back next year for the whole month!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Lilah Tov Good Night by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) and Noar Lee Naggan

This is a gorgeous story. With few words, it tells a meaningful story about the resilience of a refugee family. It also celebrates the beauty of nature.

The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine and Anne Hunter

Another book that celebrates nature, this one is both gorgeous and informative. The rhyming text, based on the poem, "The House That Jack Built," is lyrical and descriptive. The author has included facts about wrens at the end of the book that I found fascinating and I'm sure kids will, as well.

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

I have a few books that I've read this year that I would definitely put on my "Best of 2020" list and this is one of them. It alternates between the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 and World War II. It's a beautiful story of friendship and resilience. In the note at the end, the author expresses the thought that even in the most trying of times there are good-hearted people to be found. This is a particularly timely and comforting message for the times we are currently living through. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Nat Enough by Maria Scrivan

This book has an important message about being oneself. It will appeal to those readers who enjoy graphic novels focused on friendship and challenges associated with growing up.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

This is a story of resilience, courage, and hope that will help many young readers understand the experience of living in a refugee camp. It's based on Omar Mohamed's story of living in a refugee camp in Kenya with his brother. The graphic novel format makes the story accessible for many readers. It'll tug at heart strings, but it's powerful. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for a review copy. It publishes in April.

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

One of the reasons, I found The Blackbird Girls so intriguing is that I recently read this nonfiction book about what happened with Chernobyl. It's a chilling and engrossing read.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts

Kaia is brave, except when it comes to bees. She spends time helping her dad, a beekeeper, take care of his bees, but the fact that bees sting still scares her. Kaia not only learns to face her fears, but also understand how important bees are. This is a sweet story with a message about bravery and appreciating and protecting bees.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

This is a book that will go on my favorite books of 2020 list. It's an historical fiction, middle grade novel set during the Depression, in the mountains of Maine. Ellie's family has started a new life on Echo Mountain after losing their home in town. When Ellie's father has an accident she desperately wants to heal him and believes "the hag" of Echo Mountain, who she is told to stay away from, can help. This book explores themes related to family, compassion, resilience, and hope. It's a story that sticks with you long after you close the book. Thanks to the publisher, I received a review copy. The book publishes in April.

Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal by Shauna Holyoak

This is another engaging mystery featuring Kazu Jones, who debuted in Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers. In this book, Kazu and her friends are trying to identify the anti-comic graffiti vandal targeting local comic book stores. Kazu also has her own mystery to solve at home because she doesn't know what's going on with her mother who is bedridden. Comic book lovers will definitely be intrigued. The book publishes in April. Thanks to the author for an advance review copy.

Wannabe Farms by Brian McCann

Written in rhyme, this is the story of Wannabe Farms where the animals want to change their lives for the better. This is a silly and humorous book, but it also has a message about pursuing one's dreams. I think kids will be amused!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...



The Bear Must Go On by Dev Petty

The woodland animals plan to put on a show so they start making plans and Bear, who is too shy to be on stage, takes the notes. They get all the details of the show just right, but forget the most important thing - they haven't written the show. Bear musters all the courage he can and finds his voice to save the day. Bear and his friends show the importance of bravery and the necessity of keeping the big picture in mind. It's a book that will charm and amuse young readers.

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Bea's parents are divorced, her father is remarrying, and she is going to have a new sister. She is dealing with these big changes and trying to understand all her emotions. The book explores divorce, gay marriage, and forgiveness. It's beautiful and heartfelt. Thanks to the publisher, Random House Kids, for providing by book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in April.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

With its insight into the history of racism and anti-racism, this is a must-read. The conversational writing style makes it an accessible and engaging book. This is an important book for young adults to read, but even as an adult there was much for me to learn. Although I am glad for this book and what it has taught me, reading it does make me wonder why I haven't learned some of the information until now. Hopefully, this book will make its way into lots of classrooms. 

Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang

Claire's dad has suddenly sold their house and her family is moving into a van. Although her father and brother are excited for this Grand Adventure, Claire is not and she would rather hear true stories about her life, including what happened with her mother, instead of the fictional tales her father tells. Through her family's journey, Claire learns life lessons. This is a heart-warming story about family, the meaning of home, and the power of story. Thanks to Abrams books for an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in April.