February 14, 2017
Slice of Life Tuesdays
Slice of Life Tuesdays, Valentine's Day
I’m looking out the classroom window; the sun is bright overhead.
My head is spinning in dreams; Dreams take over my day.
Daylight, vitamin D. I need this day to be over!
“Over the river and through the woods…” Wait! It’s not Thanksgiving, but it is a holiday.
Holidays are meant for sharing.
I’m sharing Valentine’s love with my family from far away.
Away I go…Ah! Back to class!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
January 30, 2017
book reviews, IMWAYR
book reviews, Dan Gemeinhart, IMWAYR
Another book I finished in a few days’ time! Dan Gemeinhart is a storyteller.
Scar Island is the story of some troubled boys, sent to the Slabhenge Reformatory School for their “crimes.” The setting is Alcatraz-like — dark, stormy, etc. The adults are less than welcoming to the young characters. They are weird creeps, dangerous villains. Then an accident — leaving the boys to their own devices. Is that a good thing? Who can be trusted? What will happen when they are “free?” It seems that everyone on the island is doomed. Is this what the boys deserve? A modern twist on a “Lord-of-the-Flies” tale makes readers stay up late at night to finish Gemeinhart’s current GREAT read. Of course, I love it that there’s a librarian at this “school,” creepy as it is.
January 23, 2017
Caldecott/Newbery Awards, IMWAYR
IMWAYR, John Lewis, March: Book One
In elementary school I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I read about his calm demeanor, listened to his moving speeches, and learned about a dark time in my American history. However, I felt like I was hearing only parts of a bigger story; there was something missing. From the time I was in middle school, I acknowledged that civil rights was (and is) a hard-fought battle of minds and bodies, but it still seemed all too easy. One week there was segregation, and then one week there wasn’t anymore? A little colored girl finally got to go to a white school? A lady refused to move from her seat on a bus? I knew I wasn’t hearing everything. I read newspaper articles and archives, and watched movies about history and they way the world used to be before my time. I’m so happy to have found that our current generation of young readers have more answers than I did when I was their age. I’ve been inspired by the work of John Lewis and many other non-violent leaders of our country’s history. Now I will spread the news to others through Mr. Lewis’ books, the March trilogy. I read March: Book One today for the first time.
Riveting! Please read it. Then pick up the other two books, as well. (If you bought the set, you’re on your way!) John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell tell the gripping true stories of life in America, as they happened.
Bonus! March: Book Three won FOUR book awards today. What a fabulous day to be a reader!
(Photos from my copy of March: Book One include the cover and page 49. Photo of The Horn Book tweet from Jan. 23, 2017 on Twitter.)
January 12, 2017
book reviews, Nerdy Book Club, winter reading
I have problems. You have problems. Our world has problems. Did you know penguins also have problems? I read many books in the year 2016, but Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith is one of the few books I labeled “5-Star Status.” Everyone loves penguins, right? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the only reason you should pick up this picture book masterpiece.
Jory John and Lane Smith are a talented and humorous team. Before you even open the book, you notice that it’s backwards – the title page is actually on the back of the book. The front of the book is visual penguin pattern overload with a twist. Children and adults alike will try to peel the sticker that looks like a gift tag. But don’t! You won’t want to ruin the cover of your new book. The gift of reading fun continues inside the book.
The front cover flap introduces a penguin who bets the reader that he/she won’t finish. Who wants to read a book about problems? Stop right there. Put the book down. You don’t really want to read this book. The end pages are solid black – uninteresting. I recommend turning the pages anyway – see what you find.
You find a penguin lying flat on a snow bank. This lovable, yet annoying main character tells you, the reader, all about all his problems. It’s amazing how many problems penguins have! As you giggle (because these problems become increasingly hilarious as the story continues) you realize that your own overwhelming problems are a matter of perspective. A new character tells the penguin that maybe if he just thinks about life in a different way, he’ll be okay. This is true for all of us.
The wonderfully simple, yet intricate illustrations in Penguin Problems show the texture of snow and cold, making the reader think that maybe this could be part nonfiction. Weaving facts into a fictional picture book story is a talent, and Jory John and Lane Smith nailed it. I turned each page several times to gaze at the snow, the penguins, the South Pole underwater creatures. My eyes squinted when the penguin complained, “It’s too bright out here,” and my eyes widened to follow the hunt as the penguin maneuvered his way through the dark sea.
Perspective is the name of the game in Penguin Problems. Everything from the general consensus that all penguins look alike (“Everybody looks the same as me” is one of the penguin’s complaints), to the humorous point that all penguins waddle (“See?”), to the enlightening message from a new friend, help lead the reader to a new way of thinking.
Think about picking up Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith for your winter reading enjoyment. I’m sure your own problems will melt away – at least for the duration of the reading!
Thank you to Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, and Cindy Beth Minnich for giving me the opportunity to spread the book love with you at the Nerdy Book Club!
January 10, 2017
Slice of Life Tuesdays, Uncategorized
Caldecott Medal, Slice of Life Tuesdays
I love awards season! The Golden Globes hooked me on Sunday and reeled me into the bedroom so I could watch and not bother the other family members. I love the gowns, the tuxes, the speeches — all of it. I have a passion for awards. I now want to see all the movies and TV shows, and hear all the music that won those awards. It’s only natural, I think, to want to continue participating in the “buzz” that surrounds awards.
This is the same feeling I have when I read books that are considered for awards. I read list after list, recommendation after recommendation, to find the books that I consider noteworthy. I share books with my classes. I read books aloud, I talk about books, I show my students how books affect my life. That “buzz” is the passion that led me to take some time in class to teach a Mock Caldecott unit this year. Wow! What an experience!
My students are actively engaged, in learning! Yes, we are meeting the standards. I can prove it: 6.RL.2.1 (Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what a text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text); 6.RN.2.3 (Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text); 6.RL.2.2 (Determine how a theme or central idea is conveyed through particular details…) Wow! Our experiences matter!
We narrowed the list to six books and we are voting this week. We took the criteria from the ALA/ALSC Caldecott Medal Terms and Criteria. We made lists. We ranked each point: 4 means “absolutely meets criteria”, 3 means “yes, meets criteria”, 2 means “maybe meets criteria”, and 1 means “nope.” (It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in the two sections/classes, too.)
We will decide a winner on Thursday. Then we will watch on January 23rd as we find out if the real voters for the Caldecott Medal and Honors books will issue the same awards that we did. It’s going to be great! Just like learning should be.
January 9, 2017
book reviews, IMWAYR
fairy tales, IMWAYR, reluctant readers, twisted tales
I grabbed a copy of Aaron Blabey’s book, The Bad Guys, at NCTE, not thinking much of it. It’s a short graphic novel about a wolf, snake, shark, and piranha, who are usually cast as “bad guys” in stories. I got home and put the book in my much-too-tall pile of “To-Be-Reads” and went on with my life.
I decided to read the quick picks from my TBR pile last weekend because I wanted to get more books to school. As I read, I found many titles that were not as well-known or highly recommended, The Bad Guys being one of the them. I read it again today, and giggled and laughed, and placed the book in my bag for a couple of students who might love this little twist of a story.
Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads: “These guys have a reputation for being BAD: a wolf (Big Bad Wolf, to be exact), a snake, a piranha, and a shark. But Mr. Wolf wants to change all that. He wants to recruit his buddies to be The Good Guys. With the reader being the extra character, giggles and gasps become outright laughs as the new gang tries to save a poor kitten, stuck in a tree. Will they be able to leave their former lives behind and become HEROES?”
You’ll find out when you read it. Take a few minutes and spend time with these “bad guys.” Then pass the book along to a reader who loves fairy tales, or sharks, or even someone in class who says, “I don’t like to read.” You might just be surprised.
January 8, 2017
book reviews, Caldecott/Newbery Awards
Have you ever skipped a meal so you can read a book? I have, but if you haven’t yet, you might find yourself immersed in THE STORYTELLER — and you’d be okay with whatever else you missed. The Storyteller, by Evan Turk, is many tales weaved into one great story.
While I was reviewing book lists online to prepare myself for the upcoming Caldecott Medal awards on January 23, I came across a picture of The Storyteller. When I researched further, I found this Goodreads description of the book, and I had to read it: “Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.”
I always loved the art of storytelling: live performances in the city, reading of tales, such as The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Readers’ Theater in school, all gave me the storytelling “bug.” I enjoyed a different kind of art — a dying art, it seems. I believe that The Storyteller will bring a renewed fascination to the art here in 2017. I certainly hope so!
Spreading culture through storytelling is a lost art, and this book brings hope that will overfill your cups and your soul.