IMWAYR: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is one of my go-to authors for choice reading, with engaging and interesting characters, unique settings, and storylines that keep me thinking for months after I finish a story. As Brave As You is another hit on the list. 

In the opening scene, 2 brothers are scooping up dog poop and flinging it at trees in the woods behind Grandma and Grandpa’s house. What middle grade child wouldn’t want to keep reading? Genie and Ernie, Jr. are Brooklyn-raised brothers who are spending time in North Hill, Virginia for a month while Mom and Dad try to work out some issues. City boys in the country? Bound to be adventures. And there are many adventures — and family secrets —  to discover.

A young lady, Tess, catches Ernie’s eye as a neighbor and friend. She makes her own jewelry to sell at the flea market, she’s smart, and she’s funny. The more the plot moves forward, the more you see Ernie and Tess together. Country life isn’t all easy, though. Getting up early to do chores (choosing peas to pick at just the right moment), taking care of Samantha, the dog, and watching out for the family are tasks that sometimes overwhelm Genie, especially. Genie is curious and asks many questions (which he records in his notebook), which may or may not lead to each new adventure — and maybe even get him into some trouble.

My favorite part of this book so far is how the characters remind me so much of my own grandma and grandpa. Memories of childhood revisited: Grandma teaching the kids the right way to do chores, Grandpop eating a whole apple (core and all!), and playing outside with the dog. As the story moves, the reader moves, too, along the path of discovery of what it means to be brave.

I continue to read tonight, to find more answers with Genie, and to treasure my last few moments of summer with this family in Virginia. When you get a chance, pick up As Brave As You, and enjoy your own adventure with Genie and Ernie.

 

 

 

IMWAYR: May I Please Read Blog Posts?

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I’m giggling silently because I remember the last conversation I had with a student (fall of 2016) about the sentence, “I don’t like to read.”

“I don’t like to read.”

“Sure you do!” I responded.

“Nope.”

I said, “You like to read Facebook posts from your friends, right?”

She giggled, as I am now.

I am reading blog posts today from my new personal writing adventure, “Teachers Write!” Hosted by Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Jen Vincent, Gae Polisner, teachers can sign up on Kate’s blog (www.katemessner.com) and spend a few weeks writing with other teachers from all over the country. You can choose to participate in each day’s prompts, work on your own project and get feedback from experts, and read guest authors’ advice. It’s a great way to be more active in a safe, friendly writing community.

I’m trying it out. Back to reading, now!

 

IMWAYR: My Thinking Has Been Disrupted!

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Today I opened Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and my thinking has been disrupted! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had it so good — I’m past the “trying to impress the administration” stage of my early years, and I am able to focus on the authentic purposes of teaching reading (to enjoy the stories, to think, to learn…) and forget about the nay-sayers and their agendas. In the introduction to this fabulous, eye-opening professional read, Bob confirms that “our students won’t learn to read these difficult texts by taking quizzes or preparing for them, or by collecting points and prizes…” (see below, page 9)

The nay-sayers don’t bother me anymore. I already know what page 9 states:

My thinking has been disrupted. Kylene and Bob hope that we teachers “jot notes…join us at workshops, or connect with us via social media.” Check. Check. Check. I love Kylene and Bob because they really do want us teachers to be successful, but they want our students to be successful even more. They are helping us, guiding us, and cheering us on! Thank you!

I hope that you are lucky enough to grab this book (as soon as possible!), read it, and have your thinking disrupted this summer. Happy Reading!

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Middle School is AWKWARD

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I happened to catch this book while browsing other graphic novels and comics online. I can’t believe I never heard of this one before this year! As a middle school teacher, I know that daily life in school is awkward, and this book brings my middle school days back to life. Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova, was published in 2015, but the plot took me back to 1980. Middle school has always been the same — unfortunately awkward.

The main character, Penelope (Peppi) is new to Berrybrook Middle School. What does she do on her first day? She breaks Cardinal Rule #1 for Surviving School (Don’t get noticed by the mean kids). When she trips over her own feet and falls into the quiet boy, Jaime, she definitely gets noticed. Talk about embarrassing yourself on the first day of school! How she handles herself after that is even worse, though.

Next, she tells herself that maybe she could follow Cardinal Rule #2 for Surviving School (See out groups with similar interest and join them), instead. She makes new friends in the art club, all the while re-living her awkward moment with Jaime, and trying to think of a way to reconcile. Later, when the art club and the science club face off in an all-out war, middle school lives are turned upside down.

If you’re a middle school fan (like me — crazy as it seems), check out Awkward. I have also ordered the sequel, Brave, about a boy named Jensen. I can’t wait to see what happens next at Berrybrook Middle School.

 

 

IMWAYR: York

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? 

I started York: Book One – The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby and I’m hooked. I must say, I picked up the book after several recommendations and my continued fascination with New York City’s history. The introduction — New Year’s Eve, 1855 — set up just one of several stories of New York’s shining skyscrapers and compelling citizens. Theresa and Theodore Morningstarr, twins who had disappeared into the labyrinth of the Morningstarr Tower, left a puzzle for the people of New York before they disappeared. No one knew what happened to them. They just disappeared.

(Move forward in time)

In present day New York, Tess and Theo Biedermann spend time with their family and friends in one of the Morningstarr apartment buildings, constantly surrounded by the hum of tourists who each think he can solve the mystery of the Old York Cipher of long ago. The puzzle had never been solved.

When a real estate developer buys the building, the Biedermann’s must try to save their home, and find the answer to the puzzle. Is the Old York Cipher a true story?

You’ll have to read along with me.

I loved the opening lines of this tale! “The true story of any city is never a single tale; it’s a vast collection of stories with many heroes…” This lead made me think of our writing institute. Our theme was “We are Story.” I carried that theme, and that mission, with me this past year of teaching and living my own life. We ALL have stories to tell. I can’t wait to jump back into this — ah, these! — stories.

Happy Reading!

 

IMWAYR: Math and Reading Come Together

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I just love using picture books for my middle school classroom! This book will help both math and reading teachers spread the book love. This is 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, by Tara Lazar, and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, and it is comic genius in picture book form. 

Private I tells the story of his newest case: 6 banged on the detective’s door, scared that 7 is coming to get him. Private I took the odd case and started looking for the root of the problem. But 7 cannot be found for questioning. There are a number of suspects, and quite a few witnesses to interview, too. Private I’s work seems to multiply as the case moves forward. Can he solve the case in time, or will the numbers be subtracted, one by one?

If you’re looking for a twisted mystery, Tara Lazar provides the narrative. If you’re looking for some math vocabulary to add to your lesson plans, this book is a positive addition to your library. If you want to read a beautifully-illustrated picture book during your child’s bedtime routine, Ross MacDonald serves up the cake — I mean, pi.

Have fun reading 7 Ate 9 soon!

 

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.

 

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