IMWAYR: Summer Reading Begins!

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It’s FINALLY summertime, and while I only have a little time off, I’m ready to read and write much more. Here are the two best reads of my first week of summer:

The Bridge Home, by Padma Venkatraman – Viji and her little sister, Rukku, live a hard-knock life (literally) in India. Appa drinks and gets angry, and takes out his frustrations on Amma and the girls. Viji knows it’s time to run — to start a new and better life — and takes Rukku with her. Little does she know, life outside of home is not much better. The girls need to constantly find work and food, and with the help of two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, they are able to find shelter under an abandoned bridge. They even find a trusty canine friend to help them out.

To survive, the companions form a family. They take care of each other and work at the trash dump, scavenging enough to buy food and some basic supplies to make a home. They become quite successful…for a while. But being your own boss tends to have its own challenges, as the youngsters soon find out. They must maintain, and then change, to survive the harsh realities of Chennai’s rainy season. Viji discovers that she may need more help than she can give…is it too late to invite adults back into her life?

Padma Venkatraman wrote a beautiful novel with relatable characters and a heartbreaking look at life as a homeless child in India. The reader cheers for the children all through their journey to find out what family means, and to find home.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, by Shaun David Hutchinson – I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s work — The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried got me again. Dead or not, July Cooper is a riveting character. Dino, her once-best-friend, is left to deal with her untimely demise…is that right? Not to mention a new relationship with Rafi and all the other things that Dino has to confront in his life. Nothing is as it seems in this YA read. You’ll love it!

Up Next: Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson – I saw this one on Facebook after I finished The Past and Other Things...so I stopped by the public library and picked it up for tonight’s entertainment, as it is raining. (Again.)

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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 out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Summertime!

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Summertime!

Reading and writing, replaced with writing and reading.

Planning time at school, replaced with planning time at home.

“30 Minute” lunch, replaced by never-ending fun.

Ah, it’s summertime!

 

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: 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!

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Currently…

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Currently…

Watching “Royal Pains” season premiere, because after reading George (by Alex Gino), I became more intrigued by some differences between other humans and myself. Then, after listening to the incessant jabbering about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, it seems the media is obsessed  with the topic of transgenders. I just wanted to see how USA Network was using this media storm to gain viewers this summer.

Reading my syllabus/requirements for the EDU 517 Elective Workshop credits after attending the AWESOME All Write Institute last week in Warsaw. I will be blogging about the All Write sessions the rest of this week on my blog here at http://www.readingteacherwrites.com. Check in daily to share in my enthusiasm for continued learning about reading and writing!

Listening to my daughter laugh in the next room. She is so adorable! Even as a teenager, I feel that when she is happy, I can be happy, too.

Making dinner in the microwave. I did not stop today!

Planning to get some work done in this SHORT summer we have! Today I babysat my granddaughter (who is a pleasure), and I will see her again Thursday. Tonight I mowed the long grass. Tomorrow I will take the dog to be groomed — a long-past-needed chore! After that, we need to complete some odd/handyman jobs at home, and I HAVE to find time (when it’s not raining) to have a garage sale. I will take some more time for professional leaning at the ILA Conference in St. Louis next month. I cannot wait! Then it’s back to work (so soon?).

Loving that I do have some time off this summer to do these other tasks and activities, as well as get some rest.

Summer Reading: Where Should I Start?

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Summer Reading: Where Should I Start?

In the last week, I have read no less than 14 (that’s where I stopped counting) book lists and recommendations for summer reading. I am overwhelmed at the sheer number of LISTS out there, and I wonder how I will ever be able to choose, start, and finish all the books on all the lists! Which list is best? Should I read a series? Should I stick with a certain genre or author? Will I be more satisfied with adult books, or should I stay with the YA bunch and prepare for the next year of teaching middle school? Maybe I could read all the picture books with my granddaughter and decide with her which ones stand out.

So many lists! So many questions! Then, it hit me. It’s summer, right? I should heed the call to read my choice of books! So simple! Then I panicked again. Where should I start?

Like a Mack Truck…smack! A friend’s blog post not only mirrored my thinking (thank you, Tara Smith), her words cemented my decision. I will start at the top of my own pile and read whatever I want, all summer long! That’s what we recommend to our students; that’s what the research says: Summer reading should be choice reading. Summer reading should be enjoyable. Just do it! So I am…reading what I find intriguing and loving every minute of it. And you should read, too. Whatever you want. Whenever you have time.

Just do it!

My students talked about these titles quite a bit. Maybe you’ll want to check these out:

Wonder (Palacio), Out of My Mind (Draper), Crossover (Alexander), The Impossible Knife of Memory (Anderson), Number the Stars (Lowry) , Divergent (series)(Roth), Percy Jackson (series) (Riordan), The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo), Big Nate (series) (Peirce), Michael Vey (series) (Evans), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series)(Kinney), and El Deafo (Bell).

My YA favorites this year (in addition to the books above): Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson), The One and Only Ivan (Applegate), The Fault in Our Stars (Green), When You Reach Me (Stead), Home of the Brave (Applegate), Fish in a Tree (Hunt), Counting by 7s (Sloan). There are so many others  – you don’t want to read my list…read the books!

My Starting Line Up of Summer Picks (Adult titles, not for school): Every Day I Fight (Scott), All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr), Summer Rental (Andrews), Zeitoun (Eggers), Gray Mountain (Grisham).

Picture Books we shared and loved: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Barnett), Blackout (Rocco), Fossil (Thomson), It’s a Book (Smith), Flotsam (Wiesner), I Don’t Want to be a Frog (Petty).

Professional Development titles (that already won me over!): The Unstoppable Writing Teacher (Cruz), Reading Workshop 2.0: Supporting Readers in the Digital Age (Serafini), The Reading Strategies Book (Serravallo), and Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading (Beers/Probst) (which I used all year and have marked up well).

Summer Reading: Where will you start? Now…go find your happy place and read!

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: More on #bookaday (and Giving Books a Chance)

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I’ve challenged myself this summer to do more reading and writing. I returned from my writing conference with many ideas for writing — both for myself and for my students. My #bookaday challenge is fun! I re-read many books, and found five new ones that are on my “to do” list. I’ve plugged along at a pretty good pace, and I’ve been thankful for the time to work on these activities. I love summer reading and writing! I wish I could do this all year. Then, last week, reading screeched to a halt. Stop sign! An obstacle.

Last week’s book was Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead. After reading the first two chapters, I wanted to put it away. I actually did for a few days, reading David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls instead. My daughter, a writer in college, told me to pick up the book again, and read through the 4th and 5th chapters. I told her that I was about ready to abandon the book; I can’t get into it because there’s not much happening. There’s almost too much description. I have actually turned off the “movie in my mind” because I don’t really care what the characters look like, or who is in each room, or what items are on the kitchen table. I want to know what happens! My grown, intellectual child told me that’s what writers do: they set up the characters and the scenes in the first three to four chapters, so you, as a reader, will know how to follow what may be a complicated plot.

“Oh, I see.”

(I knew that, actually.)

It’s been many years since I let a book die on my bedside table. I’m not one to give up on a book — I keep reading, even if it takes me months — and most of the time, I finish the book and give it a great review. I have read so many books that set up characters first, but I guess maybe I just want this book to keep moving…I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have a goal of 30 books, and this is my eleventh of the summer.) “Don’t give up, Mom. Give it a chance.”

I am both willing and able to give Seating Arrangements another chance. I’m going back to chapter three today. I read the reviews again, and the back cover of the book with all the praise for this “hilarious and deeply moving” story. I want to make sure I give it “the ol’ college try” (love to my daughter for keeping me going).

Have you ever given up on a book? Pick it up again, and re-read. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Give it a chance.

 

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