Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Online Reading over Spring Break

I loved my online time over Spring Break. I discovered lots of new things and found many new ideas to ponder. Here are some of my favorite online things from this week's reading.

Miscellaneous Articles

 I loved this post by Clare and Tammy at Assessment in Perspective:  We Know Our Song.

And I loved this story about a ten year old who designed new bathroom signs to include people with invisible disabilities.

Book Lists

I spent some time with two booklists that were announced this week.  Both of these lists added to my stack of must-be-read soon!

TED Talks

I watched  two TED Talks that I absolutely LOVED!

Shonda Rhimes' My Year of Saying Yes to Everything was powerful for me.  It is about work and play and family and creativity.  I will definitely revisit this one--an important message for all of us.

And I am so glad to have discovered Grace Lin's Ted Talk, The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child's Bookshelf. Wow! What an amazing talk and one that is so important for teachers as we think about the power of books.  


And I have discovered how much more fun it is to clean when I am listening to great podcasts. I caught up on some podcasts I had missed and got lots of cleaning done at the same time!  I listened to the Scholastic podcast on Book Trends for 2016. It was fascinating!  Wish I had listened to it earlier in the year!

I also had time to listen to a bit from the Book Love Foundation Podcasts hosted by Penny Kittle!  These are incredible PD and such fun to listen to. I haven't had time to listen to all of them but I did have time to hear Kylene Beers and am excited to listen to the 2nd part of this podcast at Book Love. Another great podcast series!

I also caught up on several episodes of The Yarn (Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker) that I had missed.  I listened to Salina Yoon, Matt Tavares, Lindsay Eager and Jennifer and Matt Holm. All of these were incredible and such fun to listen to. The Yarn is the best--if you haven't made time to subscribe, you should do so soon!


And if you aren't already excited about the upcoming book by Kate Roberts and Maggie  Beattie Roberts (DIY Literacy:  Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence)
you should be.  And not only do we get a new great book, we also get a video series that goes along with the book! Whoop!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2 New Books Thanks to Donalyn Miller!

I love when Donalyn Miller shares her Best Books (So Far) of the Year.  Last week, Donalyn shared the books she recommends (so far) for 2016 on her blog and I was thrilled to find some new titles that I purchased immediately. (You can access her most recent slides on Slideshare that is linked in her post.)

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land was a book that was new to me. This is a celebration of immigration and one that will start lots of important conversations across grade levels and ages. The words are powerful as are the accompanying photos.

The other new-to-me book that I ordered after browsing Donalyn's slides was Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lapping. This is a gorgeous picture book that I think will invite lots of great conversations in the classroom.  There are definitely many issues to explore in this book.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ways I try to keep up with new and upcoming books.  Donalyn is definitely someone I rely on to find the best new books!  Glad to have discovered these two!

Monday, March 28, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It was nice to catch up on reading a bit over Spring Break. I read some great titles--even some adult fiction. I'd definitely recommend all of these! And I think they'd all be great additions to 4th-6th grade classroom libraries.

Middle Grade Fiction

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. An incredible historical fiction story of a Japanese-American girl and her family who must live in a camp during the war. The character is one that will stay with me for a very long time and the story is a perfect one for middle grade readers whether they are familiar with this piece of our history or not.

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt is an incredible story of grief and healing.  Jules is another character who will stay with me for a very long time. This my be my favorite book by this author! The relationships in the book reminded me a bit of her earlier book, Keeper, which I also loved.

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern is a quiet story about a family going through challenging times.  This was another great character who finds courage in the midst of tragedy.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly was my first read of spring break. I read much of it on audio and it is a great audio.  This is the story of two sisters from the Philippines whose father has left them with their (not so nice) stepmother. This is an intense read as there is a great deal of sadness but the girls have hope and strength so it is a good read. It is one I think lots of 4th-6th graders will enjoy.

Adult Fiction

I don't make much time to read adult fiction and I know I need to fit more into my reading life. But I did take some time to read Dietland by Sarai Walker which was highly recommended to me by a friend. This was a good read and one I'm glad I read.  I thought the storylines were good and the issues addressed were important ones.  It would be great for a book club book as I definitely wanted to talk to someone about it after I finished it!

Overall, a good week of reading!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Friday -- A Week of Poetry

This week I reviewed poetry books every day. Click on the day of the week to check out the reviews.



The Children's Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English announced the 2016 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. Not all poetry, but of note to lovers of rich language.

For more poetry, check out the Poetry Friday roundup, hosted at Heidi's Juicy Little Universe this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

THE 2016 

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World Written by Charles R. Smith,
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Published by Roaring Brook Press.

An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns Written by Betsy R. Rosenthal,
Illustrated by Jago, Published by Millbrook Press.

A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters Written by Betsy Franco, Illustrated by Michael Wertz,
Published by Millbrook Press.

Bigfoot is Missing! Written by J. Patrick Lewis and Karen Nesbitt, Illustrated by MinaLima,
Published by Chronicle.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore Written by Vaunda Micheaux
Nelson, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Published by Carolrhoda.

The Book Scavenger Written by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Published by Henry Holt and

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Written and illustrated by Don Brown,
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Echo Written by Pam Munoz Ryan, Published by Scholastic.

Enchanted Air Written by Margarita Engle, Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez, Published by

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings Written by Matthew Burgess, Illustrated by
Kris Di Giacomo, Published by Enchanted Lion.

Flutter and Hum: Animal Poems Written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, Published by Henry
Holt and Company.

How to Read a Story Written by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Mark Siegel, Published by

Jumping Off Library Shelves Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Illustrated by Jane Manning,
Published by Wordsong.

The Marvels Written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, Published by Scholastic.

My Seneca Village Written by Marilyn Nelson, Published by Namelos.

My Two Blankets Written by Irena Kobald, Illustrated by Freya Blackwood, Published by
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Plan Written by Alison Paul, Illustrated by Barbara Lehman, Published by Houghton Mifflin

Poems in the Attic Written by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, Published by Lee &

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton Written and illustrated by Don Tate,
Published by Peachtree.

Red: A Crayon’s Story Written and illustrated by Michael Hall, Published by Greenwillow.

Stella by Starlight Written by Sharon M. Draper, Published by Atheneum.

The Thing About Jellyfish Written by Ali Benjamin, Published by Little, Brown Books.

Use Your Imagination (But be careful what you wish for!) Written and illustrated by Nicola
O’Byrne, Published by Nosy Crow.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hammer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement Written by
Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, Published by Candlewick.

W is for Webster Written by Tracey Fern, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Published by Farrar,
Straus and Giroux.

Where’s the Baboon? Written by Michaël Escoffier, Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, Published by
Enchanted Lion.

The Whisper Written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, Published by Houghton Mifflin

Willy’s Stories Written and illustrated by Anthony Browne, Published by Candlewick.

The Wonder Written and illustrated by Faye Hanson, Published by Templar.

A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius Written by Stacey Matson, Published by
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

2016 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Selection Committee Members: 
Chair -- Christine Draper-Georgia Southern University
Committee members -- Evelyn Freeman-The Ohio State University, Dick Koblitz-Webster University in St. Louis and University of Missouri, Pamela Jewett-Professor Emerita at the University of South Carolina, Diana Porter-Eastern Kentucky University, Jennifer Sanders-Oklahoma State University, and Holly Sims-Independence Elementary School, Oregon.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
jacket and interior art by Abigail Halpin
Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House), April 12, 2016
review ARC provided by the author

What a treat it was to spend a fifth grade year as a fly on the wall in Ms. Hill's classroom at Emerson Elementary!

Except for the fact that she only had 18 students in that class, Ms. Hill's class could have been one of mine. The diversity mix is right, including a hijab-wearer, a Spanish speaker, and a kid on the spectrum. The mix of personality types was also right. There is a queen bee girl (and a reluctant follower who finally stands up for what she wants), an intense rule-follower, a new kid trying to find his place.

I could go on, because one of the things that makes this book so fun to read is that Laura gets her characters so right, so believable, so quirky and likable. Each one has a distinct voice that shines out through his/her poems (and the little headshot sketch at the top of every page also helps the readers keep the characters straight). Just like in a regular classroom, no child ever comes to school without carrying the baggage of their home lives, and Ms. Hill's students' lives make it into their poetry. As I read, I found myself sharing their hopes and wishing their wishes.

And then there's the poetry. When I started reading, I sticky-noted more than a half-dozen poetry forms before I said to myself, "Hey, savvy reader, remember when you got all the way to the end of Love That Dog before you realized that the mentor poems were in the back of the book?" Sure enough, when I flipped to the back, I found information about all the poetry forms found throughout the book, along with a suggestion for trying each one out and a reference back to a mentor poem in that form in the book. Writing prompts from Ms. Hill's "Prompt Jar" are also listed, again each with a mentor poems that was written from that prompt.

Finally, there's the very believable story of a neighborhood in transition and the struggle between what's loved and what's needed that ties together the fabulous characters and the wonderful variety of poems.

I can think of three readers to whom I could hand this book when I get my copy in mid-April, and I can imagine a small group who would love reading it and trying out the writing challenges. Plus, I think it would make a perfect read aloud under the document camera to introduce a whole class to verse novels and, as a bonus, to a variety of poetry forms! Thank you, Laura Shovan, for this wonderful book!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Applesauce Weather

Applesauce Weather
by Helen Frost
illustrated by Amy June Bates
Candlewick, August 2016
review ARC provided by the publisher

When the first apple falls from the tree, it's applesauce weather in Faith and Peter's family. But this year will be different since Aunt Lucy died. Uncle Arthur comes back to the farm, but he's not the same.

The personalities of the two children shine through their poems -- Lucy, young enough to believe that the twinkle will come back to Uncle Arthur's eyes if only they are patient, and Peter, old enough to be interested in the girl down the road, but young enough to be pulled in by Uncle Arthur's stories.

And then there's Uncle Arthur, a master storyteller who spins a yarn (or tells the truth?) about how he came to have a missing finger.

Even Aunt Lucy has a voice in poems that begin seven of the eight parts of the book.

A quick read, a quiet, gentle story, and sweet illustrations throughout make this an easily accessible verse novel for a reader new to the genre or one who is missing a beloved older relative.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Echo, Echo

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths
by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Josée Masse
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016

Marilyn Singer is amazing. Not only did she invent the reverso poetry form, she just keeps getting better at it!

Her new collection tells familiar stories from mythology from two points of view -- Pandora’s box, King Midas and his golden touch, Perseus and Medusa, Pygmalion and Galatea, Icarus and Daedalus, Demeter and Persephone, and Echo and Narcissus. Readers will also learn about Eurydice and Orpheus, Melanion and Atalanta, Bellerophon and Pegasus, and more.

Here is the closing poem, for just a taste of the deliciousness of these poems:

Gods and Mortals

These myths
make sense of
the world.
We --
tellers and listeners alike --
enter these portals to
gods and mortals.
They can never again be closed,
once our imaginations are opened.

Once our imaginations are opened,
they can never again be closed.
Gods and mortals
enter these portals to
tellers and listeners alike.
the world,
make sense of
these myths.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Two New Favorites

Every Day Birds
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
illustrated by Dylan Metrano
Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2016

This book-length poem pays tribute to birds we see every day -- the birds so common that we should, as Amy reminds us, pay more attention and learn more about them.

Gorgeously illustrated in a unique cut-paper technique (watch a fascinating time-lapse video of him making a puffin here), this book has a natural flow that will make it a joy to read over and over again.

by Irene Latham
illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
Wordsong, 2016

I love farmers' markets! This lively book of poems pays tribute to the vast variety of foods you can find at the farmers' market. The foods are described through many senses -- tongues "buzz with pleasure" tasting honey, peach's "baby-fuzz/cheek" tickles a nose, and (my favorite) the watermelon looks like a galaxy, with the spit seeds the shooting stars.

Two new favorites, both celebrating down-to-earth joys in life -- the rich diversity of nature around us, and the delicious variety of fresh foods available from farm to table.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry Friday -- My National Poetry Month Project

When Mom and I were sorting through a drawer full of old pictures last December, I was struck by the forgotten faces and the unknown stories that were captured on film. This April, I'll bring 30 of the photos back to life through poetry.


My eyes
will always twinkle,
even when 
they become surrounded
by wrinkles.

I will read thousands of pages,
see sunsets and rainbows,
witness a long lifetime of history.

My smile
will always turn down at the corners
just like
my grandmother's did.

I will smile at my husband's dear face,
my children's accomplishments,
my friends' news,
my cats' playfulness.

My hands
will always be busy,

I will hold these photos
one more time,
amazed at my big life,

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Robyn has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Once Upon an Elephant

Once Upon an Elephant
by Linda Stanek
illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Arbordale Publishing, 2016
review copy provided by the author

Local author Linda Stanek has ventured out into the wild once again! With this newest book, she shows readers what it means when scientists designate elephants a keystone species of the African Savannah.

Elephants do so much! They break through hardened mud for water that benefits all. They keep trees from taking over the savannah, find salt, leave tracks that fill with water, pound down paths that become fire barriers, and so much more.

Clearly, it is important to protect these amazing animals -- for their own value, and for the value they bring to an entire ecosystem!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Online Reading

I've read lots of great stuff online lately!  It seems my Twitter and Facebook feeds are constantly filled with great reading. I love how these tools have changed reading--these articles I may have never discovered, just came to me via people I follow.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am finally back into the habit of reading after a few months of a tiny reading slump!  Some of my favorite recent reads:

A true story about the first underground train in NYC.  Amazing illustrations too!

This may be my favorite of the 3 Flora wordless books!

A fun book of Haiku riddles. This would be really fun for younger readers.

A pretty hysterical book that I can't wait to share with my students.

Definitely one of my favorite picture books of 2016. One that I've read several times already.

The new book by Natalie Lloyd is fabulous. I was worried that I could not possibly love it as much as I loved Snicker of Magic but I loved it just as much, if not more!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Worms on the Sidewalk

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Kurt Bauschardt
by Dan Gerber

You know how, after it rains,
my father told me one August afternoon
when I struggled with something
hurtful my best friend had said,
how worms come out and
crawl all over the sidewalk
and it stays a big mess
a long time after it’s over
if you step on them?

(the rest of the poem is at American Life in Poetry)

It's been warm and rainy and the worms are out on the sidewalks. Two fourth grade girls walking out to the buses this afternoon were having a grand time squealing every time they saw one. All the while, I sent out silent wishes that the carelessly tramping feet would miss all the humble worms who had been rained out onto the sidewalk on a warm March afternoon.

Irene has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Live Your Poem.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

There Was An Old Lady

There Was an Old Lady Who Gobbled a Skink
by Tamera Will Wissinger
illustrated by Ana Bermejo
Sky Pony Press, 2016
review copy provided by the author

I absolutely loved Tamera Will Wissinger's verse novel, Gone Fishing (my review here), so I was looking forward to what she would do with the traditional cumulative tale of the old woman who swallowed. I have a collection of these books, and I'm always on the lookout for a new version to add to my collection. (Lookie there -- we even have a blog label for "old lady who swallowed" books!)

Wissinger's newest is another fishing-themed book, with the old lady swallowing items in reverse order -- a worm to catch the skink, a bobber to catch the worm, fishing line to catch the bobber. What a fun twist!

But the very best part is the punchline at the end. I'll give you a hint. Just before the last item she swallows, she swallows her boat. Can you think of what she would swallow, following the reverse order pattern, to catch a boat? It's what sank her!! (Is that the most perfect rhyme ever [assuming you know what the item was]?!?!)

Monday, March 07, 2016

A Happy Day for Graphic Novel Readers

Andrews McMeel Publishing is going to make my graphic novel readers VERY happy. Not one new book for our classroom library...not even two or three. FOUR new graphic novels, and I can't even imagine how over-the-moon they'll be to see the newest Big Nate! We'll start there.

Big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka
by Lincoln Peirce
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

Last week one of my readers had to remove himself from his table group because he was in hysterics over the Big Nate book he was reading. Big Nate is a character who resonates especially with my 5th grade boy readers. I'm just hoping there won't be an outbreak of boys emulating Big Nate by banging an empty plastic water bottle against their heads -- thunka, thunka, thunka!

Li'l Rip Haywire Adventures: Escape from Camp Cooties
by Dan Thompson
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

I have just the reader for this book. He's struggling to make the transition from graphic novels to books with all text, and this blend of graphics and text will be the perfect support for him. Plus, a boy who has to survive an all-girls summer camp is sure to be a hit!

These two will have to wait to meet my readers because I'm a little picky about having the first book in the series for other readers like me who HAVE TO read the first book first! But these will both be fun series to have for boy readers who are willing to cross over to a book that has a girl character (with a unicorn no less), and girl readers who might not go for Li'l Rip Haywire or Big Nate.

by Paige Bradock
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

by Dana Simpson
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

Friday, March 04, 2016

Poetry Friday -- This is the Earth

This is the Earth
by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander
illustrated by Wendell Minor
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

If you just read the visuals in this gorgeously illustrated book, you will trace the historical impact Americans* have had on the earth. In the first spread, there are no humans, in the second, a single canoe on a wild river. The sky dominates the third spread, but there is a group of teepees in the lower left corner. European settlers, railroads, steamships and airplanes appear in rapid succession, then modern cities, smoking landfills and waste spewing into the ocean. Before our eyes, a rainforest is leveled and glaciers melt into the ocean as polar bears look on. Just in the nick of time, we see recycling, commuters on bikes, a community garden, sea turtles being helped across the sand to the ocean, trees being planted, reusable grocery bags being carried. Finally, humans become a small part of the big picture again, as a group of four hike across a mountain meadow while alpine wildlife look on. Any grade level with a standard that teaches students to attend to the tone or mood created by the visuals in the media could use this book to spark rich discussions.

The text is rhyming, with the pattern, "This is the..." Mirroring the images, the book begins with "This is the earth..." then "This is the river..." and "This is the sky..." before changing to "This is the spike..." and This is the steamer..." and "This is the plane..."

Here is a sampling from the hopeful ending of the book:
"This is the Earth that we treat with respect,
where people and animals interconnect,
where we learn to find balance between give and take
and help heal the planet with choices we make."

Linda is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance.

*I originally typed "humans," but then realized that this story is predominantly that of the United States' impact on the environment. We're not the only ones, but we're huge, and if this giant would take a positive stand to make sweeping changes, we could lead the way toward a healing and healthy Earth.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale

I have been hearing a lot about Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale. I picked up a copy and read it to my class last week. It was a definite hit.  Violet and Victor are brother and sister. Violet wants to write a fairy tale but her brother, Victor does not want to be part of it. He is more about real life things.  Violet starts the story and Victor changes it a bit with his own ideas. One thing I love about this --a thing that the kids picked up quickly--is that Violet's words and writing are in purple and Victor's are in orange.  The collaborative writing that this book shows will be great to use early in the year for Writing Workshop.  There is so much to talk about when it comes to writing and creativity and where ideas go!

The art in this book is amazing.  There is so much to look at that I found myself revisiting it over and over again after the first read.  I love the colors but there are lots of hidden things in each of the illustrations. I need to spend more time with it for sure.

I picked up the other Violet and Victor book and it is very similar in the fact that they work together to create a story.  The evolution of how these two authors work together to create a story is something to add to my early in the year writing workshop conversations I think.

Happy to have found these two books!