IMWAYR: Starting New Books/Finishing Others…

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It’s been a wild week here! The end of summer always brings a whirlwind of activities and reading is sometimes left in the dust. Slow and steady wins the race. Right?

Finished: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk

The newest refrigerator adventure leaves Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and their friends dealing with a deep freeze. Whatever will they do? Who can they call to help with the thaw? Honestly, I think this is my favorite of the 3 titles — now that we know the characters, we want to help them solve the latest cold case. Preorder this one now! Available September 25th.

Still Reading: Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me comes to your favorite bookstore soon, so preorder now or get to the front of the line for this one on August 28th! Six middle schoolers have a chance each week to talk, without adult supervison, in the “ARTT” Room (A Room To Talk). At first, they wonder what to do and find it difficult to open up the talk to deep conversation. Later, the classmates/friends find that they are brave and can express their feelings freely when they are together, and they have a chance to make life better for everyone. This book addresses timely social issues that affect youth and their families and is a MUST READ for classrooms across the country.

Up Next: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser

In the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (coming September 25th), the family has to (again) make a plan “when catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbor.” They need to turn the vacant lot down the street into a beautiful community garden with no experience, no money, and only 19 days. Otherwise the real-estate developer has another plan! I can’t wait to really sit down and see what the Vanderbeekers do next.

Up Next: There are so many books to choose from!

More picture books, for sure. I’m finding some read alouds for the library, a few banned books for September, and also planning for my newest adventure in reading, Project LIT Community Book Club (#ProjectLITComm)! More information to come on that…soon.

What are you reading this week?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan your reading for the upcoming week. Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jennifer Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts have given IMWAYR a kidlit focus. Join in the fun! Choose a great book, read it, and share your thoughts with us!

 

 

IMWAYR: Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

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It’s Monday; What are You Reading?

Last week: Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher is a master of dialogue in this tug-of-war story of two families and the girl who stands in between them. Smart and sneaky, 17-year-old Annie manipulates her basketball team to play in the losers bracket during basketball tournaments in order to get a chance to run into her biological relatives. Her “bios” are losers, and her foster family, especially Pop, would rather see Annie earn a college scholarship than see her follow the dark path chosen by her mother and her sister. But her foster family isn’t perfect, either, and this book title reflects on not only basketball, but Annie’s life. She always seem to get involved with trouble somehow.

Annie’s therapist, book club friends, teammates, foster brother, and one unlikely ally keep her going — learning to stand up for herself while also supporting her in her efforts to be a part of the family, whichever family that is at the time. You cannot choose who you love. But Annie has to make some tough decisions, and maybe even cause a little trouble, to find the life she wants…and to write her own story.

Highly recommended for high school and up.

This week: The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm and Astronaut/Aquanaut by Jen Swanson 

I already read the Author’s Note, Recommended Resources, and “Mellie’s Gallery of Scientists” in the back of the book, The Third Mushroom. I’ve always been interested in scientists and their stories, so I want to find out how Jennifer L. Holm weaves fiction and fact together. I read The Fourteenth Goldfish a while back and liked that one, so I’m looking forward to this new title.

Highly recommended for grades 3-6.

Jennifer Swanson was kind enough to send me Astronaut/Aquanaut, which is another book I cannot wait to open (probably tonight after I write). The back cover reads, “Space and the Ocean: If you don’t think they go together, think again!” I am intrigued by the cover, and the photographs and diagrams in this colorful book will bring students and their teachers together to learn more about space and the oceans. Look for a review in the near future!

Highly recommended for upper elementary and up.

How is your reading life going? Grab a book this week and dig in!

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan your reading for the upcoming week. Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jennifer Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts have given IMWAYR a kidlit focus. Join in the fun! Choose a great book, read it, and share your thoughts with us!

IMWAYR: Solution Squad

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I am NOT a “math person.” Never have been, never will be. But sometimes we “reading people” must learn something new, and share that learning with others. Here is a wonderful example of a math learning opportunity: Solution Squad by Jim McClain. Mr. McClain is a teacher (which makes this book even more important to me) who strives to give his students the most engaging learning possible AND uses his strengths (he’s a comic book maker and connoisseur) to make that happen in his classroom.

When you open the colorful Solution Squad for the first time, you find an introduction written by McClain that explains how he got started with writing books. After the Table of Contents, there are a few pages of “How to Read Comics,” by Tracy Edmunds. This is helpful for people like me, who don’t read comics or graphic novels on a regular basis. Solution Squad continues with “Primer,” the first story, that introduces characters, math vocabulary, and (here’s where it gets interesting) the first problem for the Squad. “Looks like a code,” the character, Ordinate, states. The story continues and the characters use a primitive device (I learned about in my math classes) to solve the problem (You want me to give away the solution? I won’t do it!).

There are a few stories in Solution Squad, all based on math standards and McClain’s artistic way of drawing students into the learning using comics. Nathan Hale, author of the Hazardous Tales series, praised the work in the testimonials: “I wish I’d had Solution Squad when I was trying to learn math…” My personal favorite story was “The Trouble With Trains.” Remember the “train” problems from word problems in math class? Yep, I do. Now I understand not only the problem and solution ideas, but the humor that leads adults to groan at “train problem” jokes.

Jim McClain adds background information for his characters through the newest member of the squad, Radical, reading the book. What a cool way to spread the book love — from characters to real-life students. Reading is important. Reading is crucial for learning. Reading brings math to life!

One last thing — a bonus for teachers — Solution Squad has lesson plan ideas and a guide for the solutions from the stories in the book. Written for teachers, by a teacher. That’s a winning solution for math class!

Jim McClain brings STEM learning to life for students, adults, and comic book fans. Learn more about Solution Squad from the website, http://www.solutionsquad.net.

IMWAYR: Breakout by Kate Messner

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I’m so lucky to have met many awesome authors in the last few years, and Kate Messner is one author I’ve followed closely. Her newest book, Breakout, released on June 5th, and I finally got my pre-ordered book in the mail today. I haven’t finished yet, but I wanted to share this post immediately so you can add this book to your “To Be Read” list.

Breakout is written as a collection of newspaper clippings, letters from the characters (mainly Nora Tucker, a middle school student journalist and Elidee, a new student at the school), poems, text messages, and other documents. This design choice is the main reason I think middle school students through adults are going to love this unusual story. The setting is summer vacation in the mountain town of Wolf Creek, and Nora wants to enjoy her break. But two inmates from the town’s prison break out (hence, the title) and the town and its residents are forever changed.

One of the main reasons I love this book so far is that I can see myself using it in my middle school — the story starts with a writing assignment for the students at Wolf Creek Middle School — and beyond. “How I See My Community” is the premise that is already changing as the story unfolds in the letters, texts, and transcripts of “recorded conversations.” I believe (as Kate Messner does) that all humans have stories to tell, and the author certainly weaves these characters’ stories together in an interesting way.

I have to get back to reading now (I won’t put this book down, I’m sure, until the last page). By the way, the end of the book provides book lists for further “thinking” texts, separated into age-appropriate categories for readers. Thank you, Kate! That’s a nice idea! If you want to read more about how Kate Messner created this book and her writing process, please visit her website. The Breakout section of her blog is interesting, informative, and inspiring for teachers, students, writers, and everyone else. Check it out here.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

IMWAYR: Albie Newton, by Josh Funk

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This picture book in verse is from Josh Funk, one of our family’s favorite authors. Albie Newton is a boy genius-inventor-classmate who is always thinking and creating, much to the dismay of his peers. When Albie moves to a new school in the middle of the year, he wants to make new friends, so he spends his time inventing something amazing (instead of playing with the others).

Well, after Albie dumps the garbage can and steals the wheel from the hamster cage, the class notices that he’s tearing up the room. “But Albie didn’t notice all the problems he was causing. Focused on important things, he never thought of pausing.” When the kids form an “angry mob” to confront the pest, Shirley (a girl who sees Albie differently) comes to Albie’s defense.

Maybe it takes effort to make friends, and what IS acceptable effort? Albie’s actions may get him into trouble, but at the end of the day, do his actions lead to friendships? Read Albie Newton and find out. Make sure you look carefully at all the illustrations by Ester Garay, too. There are secrets, clues, and references to popular culture hidden throughout the book.

Josh Funk is a genius-rhymer-children’s-book author who knows what it’s like to focus on a task. Albie Newton is the sixth book (out of 9) for the author since 2015!

 

 

IMWAYR: In Sight of Stars

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It’s Monday, and I’m reading this masterpiece again. In Sight of Stars, by Gae Polisner, touched me and I needed to reread tonight.

In Sight of Stars is the story of Klee (pronounced Clay: long-a sound, after the Swiss painter, Paul Klee), an artist and high school senior who suddenly finds his world turned upside-down. He lived in New York City, which was perfect for this budding artist — his father took him to all the great museums and led Klee to study the great artists — until his father’s death.

Klee’s mother moves him to the suburbs. He is lost, until he finds Sarah, the perfect girl in his art class. Well, not perfect. Klee discovers his life is out of control, and he spins right into the “Ape Can” — a psychiatric hospital for teens. As Klee struggles to find out what in his life is real and what is imaginary, he holds tight to the artwork on the wall in the therapist’s office, and remembers his home in the city with his dad. Will he ever be able to overcome the dark nights? Maybe if he can set his sights on the stars…

This book moved me. Many times I related to Klee as a mother, as a teacher, as a possible friend. I felt his experiences as he did, and I struggled with him until the end of the book. The art discussions between the characters led me to research artists on my own — Klee, Van Gogh, and more. The twists and turns of the plot events swirled in my head and my heart. One intriguing move Polisner made in this story is using alternating timelines. The flashbacks and present time frames made the twists even more realistic — my own head was spinning out of control with Klee’s memories vs. current actions throughout the story. The ending then dramatically, and yet gently, allowed me to breathe again with the main character. Since I read the book the first time, I find myself outside at night quite a bit, looking at the stars. The cover of the book notes, “To find the stars, you have to face the dark.” Perfect.

 

IMWAYR: Stories from Webb — #mypersonalPD

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After meeting Todd Nesloney at NCTE’s annual convention last fall, I knew I wanted to read Stories From Webb: The Ideas, Passions, and Convictions of a Principal and His School Family. The guy is amazing! He’s high-energy, willing to speak about his educational beliefs — and listen to yours, and he’s a principal! How many principals do you know that have that much passion for teaching and learning? Well, honestly I can think of 6 or 7, but that’s the cream of the crop, and I’ve been lucky in my teaching career to work with awesome principals.

Back to the book. Stories From Webb…is part of the #KidsDeserveIt Collection published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. (the Teach-Like-A-Pirate leader), which is just fabulous. You know when you click that hashtag on Twitter that you will be inspired by what you find, and this book goes hand-in-hand with the movement. What movement, you ask? Teaching and learning is about THE KIDS. Everything you do is about what is best for kids, and that reminds me to always think about “why-am-I-here?”

Todd Nesloney shares his “why” story in Chapter 1, and highlights stories of three teachers from his school who remember their “whys.” In each chapter — 1 through 35 — Todd introduces a theme and has a group of teachers and other staff members from his school tell their stories. His wife even has a story: “When You Marry Into Education.” Each story made me nod my head, think, and question my own teaching practices over the 21 years I have been an educator. Each chapter leaves the reader inspired.

The Twist: After nodding, thinking, and questioning, Todd asks you to tell your own story. Yes. He leaves “Things to Consider” at the end of each chapter, and asks you to tweet your story to #KidsDeserveIt. That is such a cool thing — for an author to want to hear from the reader. I made some notes. I haven’t tweeted yet, but I will.

As I posted on Facebook today: “Get this book. Read it. Renew your love for teaching.” #KidsDeserveIt. And so do you.

 

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