IMWAYR: Predators and Prey, and A Season of Gifts

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Mondays are interesting around here — People are working, doing homework, and reading. Today’s reading made me think of science for some reason, and how knowledge can be fun.

I read The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse by Mac Barnett. Mr. Barnett is always so clever with his storytelling skills, and he got me giggling again. “Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.” End of story, right? Not quite.

See, there’s already a duck that has made a home in the wolf’s belly. The mouse and the duck made such a ruckus inside the wolf that the wolf got a stomach ache. A hunter then hears the wolf, and sets up to shoot. I can’t give the story away, but I promise you’ll be amused. The ending is also a surprise. Genius.

A twisted tale about predators and prey with a load a laughs. You’ll never think of hunting the same way again. (Good thing.) By the way, the illustrations with familiar bright eyed-animals created by Jon Klassen make The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse another Barnett/Klassen classic. A good book for a long winter’s night.

Now I’m re-reading A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck. I revisit this one every Christmas season. I just can’t get enough of Mrs. Dowdel.

And if we have a snow day tomorrow (supposedly there’s a chance with all the “Lake Effect Snow” coming), I’m ready. 

IMWAYR: The Creativity Project

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My plan was to start tomorrow, but I opened The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp tonight after a longer-than-expected drive home from the NCTE annual conference, and fell in love immediately with the structure of this amazing text. I’m sure I’ll read this one quickly again, and later slow down and really ponder the wonder of this amazing project. Colby Sharp is the co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, so by nature, he is a reader and writer. He asked several authors to supply creative writing prompts for each other, then sent packages to authors with the prompts, asking each to share their writing/creating process. He wanted to share (with his elementary school students) how writers come up with ideas and “observe the way that creativity works.”

Mr. Sharp wrote in the introduction, “A few weeks later, the pieces started coming in, and HOLY SMOKES! I was completely blown away.” As I flipped through the pages tonight myself, perusing the structure of the book, I, too, was in awe of the prompts themselves and the projects that were submitted. For example, author Peter Brown submitted this prompt: “Create something that includes a tree looking out-of-place.” Illustrator Lauren Castillo answered with a drawing of a city scene, and there’s a tree there, looking quite out-of-place.

I can’t wait to read this book deeply and maybe even try something myself. Thank you, Mr. Sharp, for challenging all of us — experts and amateurs —  to create!

(The Creativity Project, by Colby Sharp, and published by Little, Brown and Company, will be out in April, 2018.)

 

 

#PB10For10: August 10th is Picture Book 10 For 10 Day

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Picture Book 10 for 10: Ten Picture Books to Read the First 10 Days of Middle School

Middle schoolers love picture books. Picture books are filled with lessons, promise, and fun. Start your school year with these ten picture books for your middle school classroom:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex — The first day of school, told from the school’s point of view. First Day read. Open the year with some thinking, conversation, and fun.

One Day, The End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich — Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories. What happens in the middle? Students love the book that teaches how to offer a good story.

Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter. A young writer tries to find inspiration from her neighborhood stoop, but nothing ever happens on her street. Or is she missing something? Each neighbor teaches the girl to “look closely” and “use her imagination” as a writer.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak — I dare you to read this to middle schoolers. Just do it! LOL!

Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith — “A Little Boy sits in the corner of a classroom, plotting his future. He’s got plans…Big Plans!” Make sure you take the time to look at all the pictures closely in this one.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires — Mistakes can lead to genius inventions. Watch this girl and her dog try and try again to invent the “most magnificent thing.”

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds — A beautiful look at what makes a person happy instead of “getting it right.”

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis — A hilarious story about animals creating and building, in their own language. Read this aloud several times during the year for a good stress reliever and some laughs.

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada — “A single idea can change everything.” This story inspires learners to welcome their ideas and give them space to grow.

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby — More than anything else, Booker wants to learn to read. Many students are like Booker T. Washington. An inspirational story to begin the school year.

Have a great start to your school year! Read a lot, think carefully, and have fun along the way!

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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I finally got a chance to read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved all of her past stories, and this new title did not disappoint. I highly recommend you gather a copy with your fall leaf collection (the book comes out on September 26), sit under a nice warm blanket — under a favorite tree — and read all night long.  I read this book in one sitting, and I think you will, too.

Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!

 

Add this title to your TBR list now, so you don’t forget. Enjoy your back-to-school reading!

Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.

Happy Book Birthday, SOLO!

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For this book birthday, I wrote a review of SOLO, by Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess. It comes to us from Blink YA Books and is in stores today! This is one of my rare, 5-Star reads.

Solo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”

The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)

What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”

IMWAYR: Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

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Another book I finished in a few days’ time! Dan Gemeinhart is a storyteller. scarislandbook

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.

 

Writing for the Nerdy Book Club! My Post Today: Book Review

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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.
penguinproblemsfrontpicpenguinproblemstitle
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!

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