Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Review Meme

I found this meme at A Wrung Sponge a few weeks ago. It seemed like another fun way to sum up our first year at A Year of Reading.

The game is to list the first sentence of the first post of each month.

January: Franki and I have taught in the same school district (but never in the same building) for about 20 years.
February: I feel like I never have enough time to read, but I spend all day reading.
March: The folks who give the ACT are recommending that we continue to teach reading all the way through 12th grade.
April: No, it's not a LITTLE WOMEN kick, so much as it is my compulsion to read books "in order."
May: My 5th grade Indian cultural informant and I agree, BINDI BABES was fun, but nearly as good as BLUE JASMINE (out in paperback, I saw, in a recent trip to Cover to Cover).
June: This reviewer (Dave Barry) obviously doesn't know what it's like to be a teacher.
July: My best book of 2006 dates clear back to April: THE BOOK OF STORY BEGINNINGS by Kristin Kladstrup. Nothing else has come close since then.
August: OK, Shannon, here is my case study.
September: From the Don Marquis website: "Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past -- she claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life.
October: A previously unpublished poem by Robert Frost has been found! The poem, entitled "War Thoughts At Home" was found handwritten in the cover of a book, and will be published in Virginia Quarterly Review this week.
November: Nikki Grimes is this year's winner of NCTE's Award for Excellence in Poetry.
December: I am loving the new book called THE BUMP ON SANTA'S NOGGIN by Jeffrey Schatzer!

Top 5-o-rama, Day 5

For today's FINAL Top 5 we feature:

Top 5 Book-Related Audio Experiences for 2006

Mary Lee:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (audio book)
I listened to this during my "time travel phase" this year, and it was more satisfying, creepy, eerie, and possible...maybe than the others. First audio book I've listened to that has sound effects.

March by Geraldine Brooks (audio book)
This was from my "Little Women phase" this year. It was fascinating to get this rich back history on one of the most invisible characters in Little Women.

The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor (podcast)
My daily dose of poetry and literary history. (podcast)
My weekly dose of indepth poetry. This is how I found Kay Ryan, one of my new favorite poets!

The Princeton Review Vocab Minute (podcast)
These are brilliant nuggets that teach vocabulary in a funfunfun way!


Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (audiobook)
A fascinating look at decision making and thinking.

Author Conversation: Peter Johnston
A great interview with the author of CHOICE WORDS about teachers and decision-making.

The First Annual CYBILS by Kelly and Anne
So exciting to be part of this!

Every Day: The Guatemala Song by Anna Huckabee Tull
A great song about a child born in Guatemala and adopted by parents far away. I've shared this one with many of our friends in the adoption community.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
(Okay so I listened to this one in 2005, but the audiobook was sooo good that I had to include it!)

100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature

On July 23, 2006, the idea to try to list 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature was born. Franki wrote,
"We're looking for thoughtful teachers who understand kids and learning and are active, intelligent people who love their work."

Here they are, in alphabetical order by author's last name. Most all of them were nominated by our readers, which you should take as a disclaimer that we haven't read all of these books, and we acknowledge that there may be (a very few, unintentional) errors in this list. If you see something that doesn't look quite right, be sure to let us know!

And by all means, as you encounter a teacher we don't have on our list, nominate him/her -- we'd love to collect MORE than 100 Cool Teachers!!!

1. Jo March in Little Men, Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott
Professor Bhaer in Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott
John Brooke in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Mr. P in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Miss Nelson in Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
Ms. Bixby in Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
Ida Bidson in The Secret School by Avi
Ms. Isabel Hussey in Chasing Vermeer and The Wright Three by Blue Balliett
Mrs. Thurston in the thing about jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Mrs. Kempezinski in Good Luck, Mrs. K by Louise Borden
Mrs. Morrow in The Day Eddie Met the Author by Louise Borden
the teacher in The A+ Custodian by Louise Borden
Mrs. Mallory in The Last Day of School by Louise Borden
Ms. Shepherd in Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
Miss Hawthorn in Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan
Miss Parker in Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Miss Perry in I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brissom
Miss Temple in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Mr. Ratburn in the Arthur books by Marc Brown
Mr. Carter in the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge
Mr. Terupt in Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Mr. Magro in The SOS File by Betsy Byars, Laurie Myers, and Betsy Duffey
the P.E. teacher in The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
Mr. Champion in Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley? by Rebecca Caudill

25. Miss Binney in Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Mr. Maxwell in A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
Mrs. Granger in Frindle by Andrew Clements
Ms. Clayton in School Story by Andrew Clements
Ted's teacher in Room One by Andrew Clements
Miss Pointy in Sahara Special by Esme Codell
Miss Frizzle in the Magic School Bus books by Joanna Cole
Miss Rumphius in Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Miss Stretchberry in Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Mr. Birkway in Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Miss Hendrickson in I Know Here by Laurel Croza
Iqbal in Iqbal by Francesco D'Admo
Miss Honey in Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mrs. Hartwell in the First Day and First Year books by Julie Danneberg
Ms. Finey in The Cat Ate My Gym Suit by Paula Danziger
the teacher of "Law for Children and Young People" in Can You Sue Your Parents For Malpractice? by Paula Danziger
Mr. Foster in Kat & Mouse by Alex deCampi
Mrs. Bowers in The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola
Nicholas Nickleby in Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Mrs. McBloom in Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom by Kelly DiPucchio
Mrs. Howdy Doody in Dessert First by Hallie Durand
Madge Bettany in the Chalet School series (UK) by Elinor Brent Dyer
Miss Annersley in the Chalet School series (UK) by Elinor Brent Dyer
Ms. Sarah Melton in Mail Order Ninja by Joshua Elder
Mrs. Brook in Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

50. Miss Malarkey in Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler
Mr. Fabiano in Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher
Juniper in Juniper and Wise Child by Monica Furlong
Rosalyn in The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Miss Lupescu in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Miss Smith in Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland
Mr. Kowsz in Happy Kid by Gail Gauthier
Mr. Felix in Thursday's Children by Rumer Godden
Mrs. Jones in Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Miss Tizzy from Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray
Mrs. Coleman-Levin in the Zack Files series by Dan Greenburg
Mrs. Dunphrey in Don't You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Olana in Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Miri in Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Ms. Washington in Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan
Miss Grey in the Betsy Brooks books by Carolyn Haywood
Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle in Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Mr. Slinger in Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Mr. Carey in Naked Bunyip Dancing by Steven Herrick
Miss Meadows and Mrs. Rossi in Remembering Mrs. Rossi by Amy Hest
Miss Agnes in The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Mr. Beggs in Mountain Whippoorwill by Suellen Holland
Miss Loupe in Operation YES by Sara Lewis Holmes
Ms. Snickle in The Secrets of Ms. Snickle's Class by Laurie Miller Hornik
Great Aunt Arizona in My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston

75. Madame Lucille in Brontorina by James Howe
Mr. Blueberry in Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James
Mr. Lema in The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez
Anna in Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston
Mr. Meyer in Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley
Ms. G in Me and Marvin Gardins by Amy Sarig King
Erica's teacher in Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein
Guy Francis in the "Regarding the..." series by Kate and Sarah Klise
Mr. Sam in the "Regarding the..." series by Kate and Sarah Klise
Mrs. Olinski in The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Mr. Theotocopolous in The Young Unicorns by Madeline L'Engle
Mr. Thompson in Trevor's Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth by Lester Laminack
Miss Fowler in the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace
Mrs. Pidgeon in the Gooney Bird books by Lois Lowry
Mr. Franka in Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
Mr. Rover and Mrs. Katz in Mr. Rover Takes Over by Grace Maccarone
Ms. Crowley in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Ms. Minifred in Baby by Patricia MacLachlan
Ms. Mirabel in Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan
Sister Mary Louise in Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Mr. Todd in the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald
Miss Farley in Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay
Mr. Gee in Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton
Miss O'Grady in Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson
Mr. Ali in My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin

100. Miss Stacey in the Anne books by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Mr. Carpenter in the Emily books by L.M. Montgomery
Monsieur Noel in A Book of Coupons by Susie Mogenstern
Mrs. Willis in Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
Mr. Boldova in the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo
Mr. Scary in the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park
"Mrs." in the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park
Master Min in The Royal Bee by Francis and Ginger Park
Miss Edmunds in Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Mr. Clayton in Flip Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson
Miss Barbara Harris in The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Miss Dove in Good Morning, Miss Dove by Frances Gray Patton
Mrs. Spitzer in Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou
Mr. Collins in All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall
Miss Tansy Culver in A Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck
Mr. D'Matz in the Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker
Ms. Raymond in Dotty by Erica S. Perl
Mr. Faulker in Thank You Mr. Faulker by Patricia Polacco
Mrs. Peterson in The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
Mr. Tripp in Justin Fisher Declares War by James Preller
Ms. Lilly in Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback
the teacher in My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits
the art teacher in The Dot by Peter Reynolds
Mr. Brunner/Chiron in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riorden

125. Miss Plumberry in Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry by Michael Rosen
Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
Professor Lupin in The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
Mr. Hon in Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell
Mr. Lee in Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell
Miss Jewls in the Sideways books by Louis Sachar
Mrs. Baker in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Ms. Hill in 4 Kids in 5E and 1 Crazy Year by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Mrs. Fibonnaci in Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Mr. Newton in Science Curse by Jon Scieszka
Miss Bonkers in Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss
Miss Bindergarten in Miss Bindergarten Goes to Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
Miss Palma in After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
Kit Tyler and Mercy Wood in The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Mr. Duncan in White in the Moon by Gretchen Sprague
Mrs. Appletree in Mr. President Goes to School by Rick Walton
Miss Cribbage in My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells
Stuart Little in Stuart Little by E.B. White
Merlin in The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
Laura Ingalls in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Eliza Jane Wilder in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Oliver's teacher in My Teacher for President by Kay Winters
Miss Lesley in Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop
(Miss) Alina in Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

150. Mr. Isobe in Crow Boy by Taro Yashima

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I know we are all anxiously awaiting the announcements of the CYBILS finalists! On January 1st, the lists will be posted in all 8 categories on the CYBILS website! I can't wait:-)

I had a great time participating on the picture book committee. What a great group of people to work with. We had great conversations and I made new blogger friends! It was definitely a great experience! Thanks to
Emily, and
Anne H.! I had a great time working with all of you talking about the great picture books of 2006!

And, of course, thanks to Kelly Herold and Anne Levy for pulling it all together!
Looking forward to seeing the lists on Monday!

Top 5-o-rama, Day 4

For today's Top 5 we feature:

Top 5 Favorite New-to-Us Blogs of 2006

whimsy books
pixie stix kids pix
reading moms

Mary Lee's:

Comics Worth Reading
Slightly Biased Manga
LibraryThing Blog
Visual Thesaurus Blog Du Jour

Friday, December 29, 2006

Newbery Readiness

As we start gearing up to think about the titles we hope and/or predict will win the Newbery Award in a few weeks, Nina at Nina's Newbery has a great post about how reading for the Newbery criteria is different than other kinds of reading. Lots to think about. Her Mock Nominations have been great too. Lots to think about as we get ready for the Newbery announcement in late January.

Top 5-o-rama, Day 3, Poetry Friday Edition

For today's Top 5 (in our countdown to the ultimate day of Top 5s, January 1, when the top 5s in every category of the Cybils will be announced) we feature:

Top 5 in Poetry for 2006

Mary Lee: Top 5 Year of Reading Poetry Friday Poems

In first place, with three comments: A Merry Literary Christmas by Alice Low

In a three-way tie for second place, with two comments each:
Turtle by Kay Ryan
Confessions of a Reader by Carol Wilcox
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Six poems tied for third with one comment each. Here is the first Poetry Friday entry to receive a comment:
Moving Day by Ralph Fletcher

Franki: Top 3 Children's Poetry Books of 2006

Moving Day by Ralph Fletcher
Busy in the Garden by George Shannon
Tour America by Diane Siebert

...and 2 poems in picture book form:

Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes
My Mother's Voice by Joanne Ryder

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Instead of a bunch on December 31, how about "One tip every day to help you let go of all that crap in your way." Tonight is Open That Bottle Night.

Top 5-o-rama, Day 2

For today's Top 5 we feature:

5 Favorite Children's Books for 2006

(look for other favorites when the Cybils short lists are announced on January 1, 2007, and when we nail down our picks for the Newbery)

Franki (mine are 5 must-have books for classroom teachers):

The Last Day of School by Louise Borden
Nothing captures the feelings of the classroom and school like Louise Borden's do. This book is one that came out in the spring that captures that feeling of closing out the school year and starting summer. Just as the other books in this series (A+ Custodian, Good Luck, Mrs. K, and The Day Eddie Met the Author), the relationships are key to the story.

Babymouse (all of them!) by Jennifer Holm
I have never been a comic book reader, so graphic novels are hard for me. But, this series is a great "in" to the world of graphic novels! My students love it too. It has been a great series to invite readers into this new and popular genre that I used to avoid. The humor is quite clever!

A Coach's Letter to His Son by Mel Allen
It isn't often that you find an essay in picture book form--one that would be meaningful to children and adults. Mel Allen takes on the topic of organized sports and the way it has changed the way he plays with his son over the years. A great one for booktalk or as a great example of essay writing.

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Why Commas Really Do Make a Difference
by Lynne Truss
How could punctuation be so interesting? This book shows us all the difference a comma can make in a sentence. A fun way to look at this part of writing!

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
I am always on the lookout for great new series books for transitional readers. I read the first Ivy and Bean book this summer and am so glad I added it to my classroom library. My kids are LOVING both books in this series. Someone is ALWAYS reading the copies we have in the room. It seems to be a book that lots of kids can relate to. Very fun and a good size. Best new series since Judy Moody in my opinion! You can read praise for Ivy and Bean here.

Mary Lee:

The Book of Story Beginnings
by Kristin Kladstrup

Corydon and the Island of Monsters by Tobias Druitt

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop

The End by Lemony Snicket

Blue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So Much Has Changed in One Year

Last year about this time, on the way to Cover to Cover to buy the last few books for 2005, Franki and I had a conversation that went something like this:

ML: I'm thinking about starting a blog.

F: What's a blog?

ML: Kind of an online journal. We could have our conversations about books we think might win the Newbery there.

F: Just set it up and tell me what to do!

This year we met over tea at Scottie's and I won't even try to transcribe our 2 hour coversation. We talked about Google Analytics vs. Site Meter, our work on our Cybils committees (ML-graphic novels, F-picture books), other favorite blogs in the kidlitosphere that are the same approximate age as A Year of Reading, our ages compared to the ages of other bloggers in the kidlitosphere (we're feeling pretty old, and VERY proud to be blogging when others our age have no idea what a blog even is...umm...kind of like us one year ago...), and our plans for year TWO of A Year of Reading (stay tuned, we're pretty pumped about 2007!).

Top 5-o-rama

With just 5 days to go before the ultimate Day of Top 5s (the announcement of the short lists in all the categories of the Cybils), A Year of Reading unveils...

Five Days of Top 5s

We begin today with our TOP 5 ADULT BOOKS OF 2006

Mary Lee's:
Oak: The Frame of Civilization by William Bryant Logan
1776 by David McCullough
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
La Perdida by Jessica Abel

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Monday, December 25, 2006

Take Note, Publishing World

Fuse #8 has asked for Manga titles for kids, "Manga on par with Babymouse."

The silence has been deafening.

I wish I could list title after title that I have discovered in my reading for the Cybils nominating committee for the graphic novels section. I haven't seen Hikaru No Go (main character is a sixth graders) or Yotsuba (sounds like a cutesy child Amelia Bedelia) but I will say that Kat & Mouse is quite a stretch for "KIDS (not teens)." The two main characters are seventh graders and the book features a two page spread overview of the Expensive East Coast Private School cafeteria that includes scores (Brains, Evil, Cool, Sports) for each of the cliques.

I poked around Google a bit and found MangaBlog on Manga4Kids, a site which reviews Manga for parents of children 13 and under, and gives feedback on plot, character & morality, violence, sexuality/body functions, language, and substances in each title.

But clearly, the publishing world needs to take note of this niche and get busy!

First Must-Have Picture Book of 2007

I didn't think I'd post today but, since I found the most amazing new picture book, I had to share! I think it could be our first CYBILS nominee in the picture book category for 2007! (Wonder when nominations open!?) It was a Christmas present from my older daughter to my younger daughter (who kept it a secret from me, knowing that I would want to keep it myself!) I would advise you to, "Run out and buy one today!" It is called 17 THINGS I'M NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYMORE by Jenny Offill. I fell in love with it immediately. It is a great, fun story of a little girl who has great ideas, that don't seem so great to everyone--especially not to her mother! ("I had an idea to staple my brother's hair to his pillow.... I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.") The story is great and the pictures add so much! The pictures of the main character bring out her lively spirit and the backdrop illustrations are quite amusing. This book is a first (children's) for this author. It reminds me a bit of Judith Viorst's writing--a strong voice that I am excited to have discovered on Christmas morning. A definite must have. If you received a bookstore gift certificate as a holiday present, I would definitely recommend using it to buy this book!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Our First 2007 Book Review: KIMCHI AND CALAMARI

Can you believe that it is time for 2007 books!? I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of KIMCHI AND CALAMARI by Rose Kent. Since she had read that I am a mom by adoption, she thought I might like it. She was right!

KIMCHI AND CALAMARI is a book about a middle school boy named Joseph, who is part of an Italian Family. Joseph was born in Korea and adopted by his parents when he was a baby. He has two younger sisters. I loved this book for two reasons. It is a great coming of age story. Joseph is a character that you care about. He is going through the normal teen stuff (girls, school, etc.). I also loved it because of the adoption piece. Joseph is struggling a bit with his identity that becomes a bit more complicated after a school assignment that asks him to write about his heritage--is he Italian or Korean? I think that this book will be a great one for my daughter as she gets older and wonders about her own heritage and tries to figure out who she is. The thing I like most about this adoption thread, is that Joseph is still living his life--his issues about his birthfamily are one part of his life, but not his whole life. His parents are believable in the way they respond. I imagine the adoption community will give big praise to this book. I don't know of another book for middle grade kids that approaches adoption and birthfamily searches in such an authentic, yet age-appropriate way. Joseph is a teenager in the book. But as I read it, I realized that the span of reader age-appropriateness is broad. If a child needed this book when he/she was in elementary school, I think it would be appropriate. Rose Kent did a great job of writing an engaging story with a good plot. She wrote about a character that I loved and wrote about adoption as one part of a child's identity.

I feel so lucky to have read this book before it is actually in bookstores. I plan to tell all my friends who have adopted children about it. And I am looking forward to anything else Rose Kent may write:-)

I lucked out on my first 2007 read. Hopefully, this is a sign about how the whole year of reading will go!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Baby/Young Child Gift Idea

So I am LOVING the new-to-me blog Pixie Stix Kid Pix. It is taking me a while to catch up on the posts but I can tell this could become one of my new favorites! There is a great list on the blog that I wanted to share--it is the 12 essential board books. I often put together a basket of board books for new babies, baby showers, holiday gifts for young children. This list is invaluable. If you buy lots of board books for kids, it is definitely worth checking out. If not, the blog is worth checking out for all of the other great stuff!

Poetry Friday for Christmas

One of my family's most beloved Christmas Eve traditions was Mom reading us the Christmas story from the Bible and Dad reading us THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I can still hear his voice when I read it.

Here are my favorite parts:

A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the luster of midday to objects below;
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gifts for Book Characters

Thank you Gregory at GottaBook for another fun holiday diversion -- gifts for book characters. (This, along with elfing yourself.)

My favorite recent read is CASTLE WAITING by Linda Medley, a 450+ page YA graphic fairytale. Here are gifts (too bad I couldn't think of cool office supplies for all of them!) for some of the characters in CASTLE WAITING:

Jain -- her very own happily ever after
Rackham -- a subscription to GQ
Simon -- a collection of early readers -- UNLEVELED, of course!
Chess -- a membership at Gold's if he needs it!

And for the Solicitine Nuns -- nothing! They have it all already: intelligence, wit, cunning, compassion, beauty...and BEARDS!

(I hope that was enough of a tease to let you know you MUST read this book!)

Cool Office Supplies

I figure most people who read this blog love books AND cool office supplies. I just found a great site for fun journals, file folders, pencils and more. It is called See Jane Work. If you love office supplies, I would check it out. Also a great place for small gifts!

(Mary Lee, I know you are still home recovering--don't spend too much time on this site or you'll go broke!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Levelmania Continues

So, as reported on Blog from the Windowsill, some kids are not allowed to check out books from the school library that are above or below their "level". UGH! I am trying to get the actual blog link because I really don't want to believe this craziness! The stories about the leveling disaster don't stop. Choice is so important to our newest readers. I agree completely with the title of the post about this: "as if I didn't feel enough like smashing my head into a wall". My feelings exactly. I will let you know if I get the link to the blog that reported this newest leveling disaster.

Boys and Literacy

Ralph Fletcher, author of BOY WRITERS: RECLAIMING THEIR VOICES and Tom Newkirk, author of MISREADING MASCULINITY: BOYS, LITERACY, AND POPULAR CULTURE were interviewed on New Hampshire's Public Radio. You can listen to the interview on the site. Such a hot topic these days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Go Elf Yourself!

You know you want to be a dancing elf, and now you can!

Mary Lee's an elf! Franki's an elf! Bess the Dog is an elf!

Happy Craziness to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

DIBELS, Reading Fluency, and More

Doug at Borderland has a great post about DIBELS, fluency and more. I think for any of us who work with kids, we need to think hard about the messages we give our kids about reading. By administering some of these tests and then teaching TO them, what are our kids learning about what it means to be a reader and a learner? Doug has a great post about lots of this and links to much of the research that tells us what some alternatives are for more authentic, informative assessments. Ken Goodman's paper on DIBELS can be read online and shared with colleagues. His book, THE TRUTH ABOUT DIBELS is also a must read on the test and the harm it is doing. Several experts in the field are part of this book.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Merry Christmas: Graphic Novel Style

by Nathaniel Marunas
artwork by Erik Craddock
Razorbill (a division of Penguin Books), 2006

One of Santa's elves, a disgruntled laundry room worker, wants to share some "cutting edge spells" with Santa. You've got to give it to Santa, he has made time on December 23rd to meet with Fritz, even though it's obvious that Fritz is not one of his top-notch elves. Their discussion is interrupted when Santa has to leave to attend an emergency on Assembly Line #47.

Fritz's eyes land on a Ninja nutcracker, a lightbulb goes "Bing!" over his head, and he hatches a plot to make Santa realize that he needs him for more important things than laundry.

Unfortunately, the magic that brings the Ninja nutcracker to life manages to spread to the teddy bears, and the Ninja teddy bears are on the brink of destroying the hydroelectric power plant that powers everything at the North Pole. Santa does indeed need Fritz now -- Fritz must bring Santa the two swords that the Samurai gave Santa a century and a half earlier.

The swords transform Santa into the buff Ninja teddy bear slasher seen on the book's cover, and as expected, he triumphs over evil, and the plant is repaired in time to complete orders for Christmas. In a surprise move, Fritz is promoted from laundry to Special-Effects Coordinator.

I won't spoil the ending, but after you read it, you'll understand why this book is paired with Jon Agee's SMART FELLER FART SMELLER on Amazon.

A fun holiday book for anyone who is a little over all the saccharine of the season.

(Too bad it wasn't a Cybils nominee. I would have definitely included it in my top five in the 8-12 year-old sub-category.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More fun than anyone should have on a treadmill

Synchronized treadmilling.

Teaching and Learning in a Digital World

It is hard, but not impossible, to be a tail-end Baby Boomer (a Digital Immigrant) teaching Digital Natives. It takes work, though.

I've already embraced multiple digital and nondigital tools for composing in writing workshop. I still have a ways to go (see sidebar for great writing tools).

I'm pushing myself to read and value graphic novels.

I am half-a-step behind Monica in moving towards blogging with my students.

Podcasts like these tantalize me with possibilities for my classroom.

And there's a whole world of E-books just waiting to become another option for reading, and teaching readers. (Thank you, Wrung Sponge, for these links.)

I'll never catch up to the Natives, but I'll die learning, and that's a good thing!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cats or Dogs?

What's your favorite metaphor for classroom management? Mine used to be "herding cats" until I read this.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Christmas Wish List

All I have to say is, "Be careful what you wish for."

I'm the kind of reader/compulsive book buyer who doesn't need more books, just more time to read all the ones waiting on my shelves (and in piles at the ends of shelves, and in stacks by my bed, etc.).

Two repaired ruptured discs later, I got my wish: I have the next three weeks free and clear for nothing but reading while I recover from the surgery. (Yes, that's why I dedicated the snake poem to my spine.) Again, be careful what you wish for!

First, as a member of the nominations committee for the graphic novels category of the Cybils, I'm going to read as many of the nominees as I can get my hands on. The scope and breadth of the nominees is amazing -- from BABYMOUSE: BEACHBABE to Yaoi Manga and every possible variation in between! It's like there is a whole room in the library that I've never explored! To further my GN education, I am reading Comic Guru Scott McCloud's books UNDERSTANDING COMICS, REINVENTING COMICS, and MAKING COMICS.

I have some gift books that I'd like to read after the GNs: DEAD IN THE SCRUB by B.J. Oliphant, a mystery set in Colorado given to me by friends who know I'm not a mystery reader, so there must be something special about this one. My German "mom" sent me SNOW by Orhan Pamuk for my birthday. How timely, since the next book for book club is MY NAME IS RED, also by Pamuk. Last year at this time I was agog about listening to David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS. I got the print version for Christmas, as well as his earlier book NUMBER9DREAM. (I do suppose if there is one book Santa might send, it would be BLACK SWAN GREEN, if it's in paperback.)

I won't be able to swim for three months, but luckily I have HAUNTS OF THE BLACK MASSEUR: THE SWIMMER AS HERO, "a meditation on both the act of swimming and on its cultural, literary and psychological meaning," and GRAYSON, Lynne Cox's (of SWIMMING TO ANTARCTICA fame) new book about her encounter with a baby grey whale while doing a training swim in the ocean.

And of course my to-read pile includes children's books: Penny Colman's ADVENTUROUS WOMEN, which I won in a drawing when I heard her speak more than a year ago; THE CONCH BEARER by Chitra Banerjee Kivakaruni, a book recommended by a librarian in my quest to have more books in my classroom library in which my Indian children could see themselves; IQBAL by Francesco D'Adamo, a novel based on the true story of a modern Pakistani child sold into slavery at a carpet factory; three to finish before I make my short list of Newbery nominations: YELLOW STAR by Jennifer Roy, BREAD AND ROSES, TOO by Katherine Paterson, and THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING by M.T. Anderson; and two that are intriguing hybrids of novel and graphic novel: THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznik, and THE FOG MOUND BOOK 1: TRAVELS OF THELONIOUS by Susan Schade and Jon Buller.

OK, Franki, you asked for it; there it is!

Christmas Books

Stephanie at The Children's Literature Book Club is reviewing Christmas books this week. I already found a new one to check out! It will be fun to read her site this week to get more holiday book ideas.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gingerbread Cookie Cutters

Okay, so it is a stretch that this ties into my life as a reader. But, I do love some versions of THE GINGERBREAD I think this is connected enough. Have you seen these very funny Cookie Cutters? I am quite amused. I have to buy a set. I always have several neighbor kids here decorating cookies with my kids. This could be fun!

I have ordered a few things from Kim and Jason's Lemonade Stand and have become kind of addicted. Really fun things and great service. They are one of my new, favorite companies. (You get a little free surprise every time you order!)

Leveled Books

Most of you know that I think we've gone too far with leveled books in our classrooms. Don't get me wrong...I think they are a great resource, especially for beginning readers. (I was just reading a few with my first grader.) But, too often, the thing that was meant to be a tool for teachers, has become a competition for our kids. By encouraging kids to move from level to level to level, they lose the purpose for reading and the love of reading. Not much different from the SRA's of my childhood. (I was stuck in the blue box for a LONG time!) Lisa Koch has a great new article about her son's experience with leveled books on Choice Literacy's website. I wrote one about my daughter a while back too, that talks about the variety of books that kids need in their reading lives. I just worry that we've gone too far and taken out so many of the great, quality picture books that don't "fit" the level formula.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Poetry Friday: Ode to my spine

The Snake
by William Matthews

A snake is the love of a thumb
and forefinger.
Other times, an arm
that has swallowed a bicep.

The air behind this one
is like a knot
in a child’s shoelace
come undone
while you were blinking.

It is bearing something away.
What? What time
does the next snake leave?

This one’s tail is ravelling
into its burrow—
a rosary returned to a purse.
The snake is the last time your spine
could go anywhere alone.


I love those last two lines so much, here they are again:

The snake is the last time your spine
could go anywhere alone.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NCTE addresses NCLB

NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) has posted their recommendations for No Child Left Behind. You can read the statement on the NCTE website.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Holiday Wish List

I love that Liz B. at at "A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy" posted her book wishlist! What a very clever idea.

So, I got thinking about the books that I would like as Chrismtas presents. (My husband seems to find this idea amusing since he can't imagine that there are books out there that I want that I don't just buy! But, there are a few.)
I just realized that Philippa Gregory's new book is coming out this week. So, that is my number 1 book wish. I LOVED THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. So I am very excited about this new one--THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE. It is on the top of my holiday wish list.

It got me thinking that it would be fun for all of us bloggers to post a book or two that we hope to get as holiday gifts this year. It would be fun to read what everyone is hoping to read in early 2007!

Mary Lee, you can go first:-)

365 Penguins

Have you seen this new book? 365 PENGUINS by Jean-Luc Fromental. LOVE it! I actually purchased it before I had even read it. It was such a fun-looking book that I knew I had to have it. It is really big. There are fun penguins on the frong. It has bright colors--well one bright color (orange). The pictures are engaging. When I got it home, I read it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fun, simple story. The story includes some math problems as the family tries to figure out what to do with all of the penguins in their house. A nice addition at the end is some info on global warming and the harm it is doing to animals. A great book and so many ways to bring it into the classroom. I read it aloud to my students for fun and they loved it. I think it is one of those books for all ages.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

New Holiday Book

I am loving the new book called THE BUMP ON SANTA'S NOGGIN by Jeffrey Schatzer! I didn't know the author but my daughter received it as a present. It is quite good and quite funny. Santa gets a bump on his head and can't remember what his job is. People around the community give Santa clues so that he'll remember his job, but he keeps making incorrect guesses. The pictures--photos of Santa dressed as all sorts of things--are pretty hilarious. Santa finally does get it right. I have favorite holiday stories and always have trouble finding new ones that I love. This story made me laugh. It would definitely make a great Christmas present. As a teacher, I can see young children jumping in to help Santa figure out who he is. It would definitely make for a fun read aloud. I don't know of his other book but I will certainly check it out now.