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.

 

IMWAYR: The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

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I love learning about people and their real-life stories. I especially love the lesser-known stories of historical time periods. Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and we also remember other great names in Civil Rights history. Did you know that some famous Civil Rights activists were children? Today’s IMWAYR title should be shared widely. I share here to remind myself and others that children CAN and DO make a difference in our lives and in our communities.

The Youngest Marcher: The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, by Cynthia Levinson will stay with me for a long time. I know the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches and speeches, and they have inspired me in the past. Last year when I read The MARCH Trilogy, I learned so much more from Representative John Lewis’ firsthand accounts and experiences. Now I am reminded (through a picture book — see, picture books teach all ages) that there were children arrested in May of 1963, one being Audrey Faye Hendricks, who was nine years old at the time. I thought, “NINE? They arrested 9-year-olds?” Yes, yes, they did, and by doing so, they filled the jails in Birmingham, Alabama. Amazing. Frightful. Inspiring.

I missed this book when it released in 2017, but I am so glad I have remedied that. I recommend that you buy this book and keep it — read it when you need a good story about children being brave and changing the world.

IMWAYR: Getting Ready for Awards Season! Caldecott Medal

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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. 

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