Friday, June 30, 2017

Poetry Friday -- My Little Town

Home Town
by William Stafford

Peace on my little town, a speck in the safe,
     comforting, impersonal immensity of {12 miles from} Kansas.
Benevolence like a gentle haze on its courthouse
     (the model of Greek pillars to me)
     on its quiet little bombshell of a library,
     on its continuous, hidden, efficient sewer system.

Sharp, amazed, steadfast regard on its more upright citizenry,
     my nosy, incredible, delicious neighbors.

Haunting invasion of a train whistle to my friends,
     moon-gilding, regular breaths of the old memories to them—
     the old whispers, old attempts, old beauties, ever new.

Peace on my little town, haze-blessed, sun-friended,
     dreaming sleepy days under the world-champion sky.

I'll miss going home this summer...but first-home will just have to wait there in the midst of the wheat fields and under the blue, blue sky (my photo doesn't do the sky justice) while I fully settle back into now-home and give myself these weeks devoid of commitments so I can unravel and relax into ME.

**Edited to add, read this article: The Busy Trap. Wisdom: "...the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love." and "Life is too short to be busy."

Diane has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Random Noodling.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rhino in the House


What? Doesn't everyone have a rhino in their living room?

You mean there are people out there who don't have a rhino who competes with the cat for a spot on their lap?

You're telling me that your pet rhino doesn't have a favorite read aloud?

Rhino in the House: The True Story of Saving Samia
by Danial Kirk
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017
review copy...well, I had to have it, didn't I?

Rhinos are my spirit animal, so when Cover to Cover Children's Books started their inventory reduction sale before their move, the rhino who'd been living there for a few years came home with us.

At our other favorite local independent bookstore, Gramercy Books, I found this book and now I have an easy answer when anyone asks me who I would be if I could go back to any time in history. I would be Anna Merz so I could start a rhino sanctuary, find an abandoned baby rhino, and raise it in my own home. I would name her Samia, and I'd put her to sleep by letting her curl up on my lap while I sat in bed reading aloud to her to calm her down. I would learn what her grunts, squeaks, snorts, and toots meant. And I would help her transition to being an independent wild rhino. Oh, the adventures we would have together!

The story of Anna Merz's dedication to the conservation of endangered species, especially rhinos, is touching and funny, but most of all, inspirational. We need to raise up a new generation with her passion for doing the right thing and making the world right again.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Reading Without Walls

Revenge of the Green Banana
by Jim Murphy
Clarion Books, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

The Reading Without Walls challenge gets you out of your reading comfort zones and introduces you to new characters, settings, genres, or formats.

A funny story set in a Catholic school in the late 1950's that features a group of 6th grade boys (and one wacko second grader) plotting a revenge of reciprocal humiliation on Sister Angelica, their teacher, is definitely not my bailiwick. I described some of the details and read aloud a couple of scenes to the resident Catholic School Lifer, and he thought it all rang very true (and was very funny). Would a reader without such a resource buy into the Catholic School setting? Are the references to the 1950s/1960s strong enough to give a clear sense of "historical" fiction? Perhaps, perhaps not, but any reader who wants to enjoy a funny story about an underdog who tries to get revenge, but who stumbles on his own foibles at every turn, will enjoy this book.

Jimmy is a troublemaker who has a reputation (and a big fat red folder of his misdeeds) preceding him. He wants to change this year, but there's no way to get a fresh start with a reputation like his. It definitely seems like Sister Angelica has it out for him, but with 62 in the class, I have just a bit of empathy for her. To survive the odds of 1:62, being a little bit proactive with the behaviors seems like a plan. In contrast to her apparent targeting of Jimmy in class, the scene where Jimmy teaches Sister Angelica to shoot a basketball lets her humanity and personality shine out, which is why I'm cutting her a bit of a break, although not enough to add her to our list of 100 Cool Teachers of Children's Literature!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Poetry Friday -- History

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Found Animals Foundation

by Robert Penn Warren

History, shaped like white hen,
Walked in at kitchen door.
Beak clicked once on stone floor.
Out door walked hen then;
But will, no doubt, come again.

I won't suggest any possible parallels to The News of the Day. I'll let you chuckle to yourself and wish for whole flocks of chickens to clean up the kitchen floor.

This gem comes from You, Emperors, and Others: Poems 1957-1960 by Robert Penn Warren, the newest addition to my collection of poetry books signed by U.S. Poets Laureate.

Heidi has today's Poetry Friday roundup at My Juicy Little Universe, along with a shiny diamond of a poem written by her second graders.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Surprise Endings

The Book of Mistakes 
by Corinna Luyken
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017
review copy from the public library

This book is a celebration of mistakes...mistakes that can be seen as good ideas if you don't get stuck thinking they are mistakes. Just when the book seems to be getting repetitive, it gets complicated, and then it takes your breath away. This will be a fabulous #classroombookaday.

XO, OX: A Love Story
by Adam Rex
illustrated by Scott Campbell
Roaring Book Press, 2017
review copy from the public library

What's it called when a book is told all in letters? Epistolatory. Yeah. That's what this is. Ox loves Gazelle and tells her so in adoring letters. Gazelle does NOT love Ox and tells him so in increasingly irritated responses. Until...

Make sure you study the endpapers before and after reading. What do you know about the two characters from the beginning end papers? (Ox loves lots of things; Gazelle loves...herself.) And what can you infer from the ending end papers? (Lives have been changed. Anything is possible.)

This will be another fabulous #classroombookaday.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
by Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017
review copy from the public library

Speaking of endpapers, here is another book with great rewards in the end papers. (And another to save for #classroombookaday!)

The fourth in Jerry Pinkney's retellings of fables and folktales, this one is (again) nearly perfect in every way. Pinkney doesn't just give us another predictable retelling. He adds several twists that make the story even bigger than the original. In his version, the ogre gets a taste of his own medicine, highlighting the recurring nature of verbal bullying. But the ending holds a surprise. There are clues, subtle in the last spread of the story as well as the final spread with the author's note, but obvious in the final endpapers, that the billy goats' hearts are big enough for forgiveness, and the ogre's is open for redemption. That's a surprise ending worth replicating!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Math Books for the Classroom

How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit On a Plane? by Laura Overdeck is a fun new book that I discovered thanks to someone sharing on Social Media!  It was released a week or so ago and I ordered it right away. This book is a full of questions you can answer yourself using math. There are chapters that categorize the questions--Animal Math, Nature Gone Wild, Math for Your Mouth and more. Each two page spread poses a question and gives the info you need to solve the problem. It also answers and explains the reasoning for the answer. For example--How many times do dogs take a bath a year?--and then goes on to investigate. I see this as a great book to use for openers for Math Worksop or in a variety of ways to just have fun with math.

Animals By the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins is a book of visuals. The infographics on each two-page spread are all about animals and each infographic is very unique.  Reading each page takes time and attention to detail and I can see doing Notice and Wonder thinking routines with these pages. These are great pages to linger over as you talk about data, displaying information, comparing things and more. And of course this book has Steve Jenkins fabulous illustrations so it can be used in coordination with some of his other books like Down, Down, Down.

Finally I need to thank my friend and colleague Maria Caplin for introducing me to this book.  Mind Boggling Numbers by Michael J. Rosen is another one that is great fun!  This is a book that is similar in concept to How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit On a Plane? as it also asks questions of readers and then goes on to think through the math.  This book also includes great graphics and. visuals....and some humor!

I am happy to have discovered three books that have great ideas for young mathematicians. And these are definitely for older elementary students. Excited about sharing these 3 books with my 5th graders in the fall.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I love online book chats. I love the flexibility and the range of thinking that happens when you read with people who are in different teaching situations, etc. And I love the flexibility of reading and discussing at my own pace.  I joined #NCTEreads last month. #NCTEreads is an ongoing month-long chat on Facebook and Twitter. I was a bit worried about joining as the book, Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives, was not at all my area of expertise or work. As a reader, I love YA lit--no question. However, I wondered if I would have anything to contribute or whether I'd be able to connect with the conversation since I teach 3rd grade. But I know the book and I know author Jennifer Buehler (@ProfBuehler) is brilliant so I decided to join.  I'm sooooo glad I did!

Although the book focuses on YA pedagogy, there are so many threads that cross age and grade.  So much got me thinking in new ways about my role in the classroom. It helped me think about the bigger goals we have for students, and to think about books in new ways.

Not only that, but the Facebook group was full of fun events.  A podcast with the author was shared and there were live events with YA authors! I was able to attend one of the live events with author Deborah Heiligman. What a great event. It was a conversation between Jennifer and Deborah about her newest book, Vincent and Theo which sounds fabulous. It was recently named the Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Award winner and it's already received several starred reviews! It was a great chat and I was so happy to be able to watch it live on Facebook!

Toward the end of the month, #NCTECHAT will continue this conversation about YA Literature on June 25. #NCTECHAT is a monthly one-hour chat on Twitter. I am excited to learn more and to get new things to think about. One of the things I am loving about #NCTECHATs is that I keep learning new things and meeting new people. I've been brave enough to join chats that are not my area of interest or expertise and every time I find brilliant people who push my thinking.

If you teach middle school or high school, I would definitely recommend this book and joining this conversation.  NCTE members can still join the Facebook group, and everyone is welcome to join in on Twitter on 6/25. If you are an elementary teacher and you are still wondering whether a book and conversation about YA has anything to do with you and your teaching, here are some of my favorite quotes from the first half of the book:

"I recognized that young adult authors were drawing me out of my own life and into the larger world.  They were helping me think about who I was and who I wanted--and didn't want--to become." (p. 2)

"When students are assigned books they can't understand, and when they sit in classrooms where they listen to others talk about literature instead of reading it themselves, they are shut out from the opportunity to be readers." (p. 3)

"If helping students become readers is partly about helping them form reading identities, it's also about patience and progress over time." (p. 6)

"I want to suggest that there are two key dimensions of text complexity, and we need to attend to both in our teaching. Complexity can be found in the text--in the overall quality of an author's writing and thinking. But complexity can also be found in what readers do with texts--in the meanings they create based on their purpose, context and motivation for reading. This means that as we evaluate texts for their inherent measures of complexity, we also need to explore how and why texts become complex for individual readers." (p. 29)

"Even as teachers adapt their approach to meet the needs of particular students in specific contexts, there are four qualities we can expect to find in common across these classrooms: Qualities of
(1) belief that the work is important; (2) discussions that blend personal response and literary analysis; (3) a sense among students that they are known and valued; and (4) collective investment in a shared experience." (p. 53)

The first #NCTEreads has been such a great experience for me. I've read a great book, met great people, heard from a new author, and I have so much more to think about.  Loved the experience!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reading Without Walls

National Ambassador For Young People's Literature, Gene Yang, is encouraging ALL readers to try Reading Without Walls: "I want every kid — every reader, really — to explore the world through books. Books have played a vital role in getting me outside of my comfort zone. I believe they can do the same for you." He encourages readers to try reading a book about a character who doesn't look like or live like you, or a book about a topic you don't know much about. You can also stretch into a format you don't usually read for fun.

Refugees of war-torn countries are often in the news these days, and sometimes sitting in our very own classrooms. How do we talk to our students about what's going on in our world with both accuracy and sensitivity? How do we help them understand the journey of their classmate? How do we help them imagine the unimaginable? How can we give them hope, even though the situation seems hopeless?

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees
by Mary Beth Leatherdale
illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare
Annick Press, 2017

This collection of stories of boat refugees gives historical context to today's news. A timeline in the beginning gives brief examples from around the world from 1670-1914, and another after the main text gives modern day (post-WWII) examples from 1939-2016. The main text tells five stories of escape -- stories that older readers (grades 6-12) could read independently, but that younger readers (grades 3-5) might need to read with an adult in order to process concepts such as anti-semitism, people smuggling/human traffickers, and the grim reality of detention centers. Each of these five stories ends with hope, telling about how each of the refugees has made a new life through hard work, education, or the passion of art (photography, filmmaking).

Where Will I Live?
by Rosemary McCarney
Second Story Press, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

Even the youngest readers can experience empathy for refugees with this book of vivid photographs from around the world accompanied by simple text: "Sometimes scary things happen to good people. / When soldiers fight or danger comes / families must pack their things and search for a safe place to live." The question "Where will I live?" is the refrain all through the middle of the book, but it ends with hope, "I hope someone smiles and says "Welcome home." I hope that someone is you."

Come With Me
by Holly M. McGhee
illustrated by Pascal Lemaître
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young, September 2017

The character in Holly McGhee's picture book could very well be the someone wished for in Where Will I Live? She sees all the scary news and is afraid, but her parents show her that the world can be healed with small acts of kindness. In just a few words, this book packs a powerful message that every person is able to and responsible for changing the world into a place of kindness and acceptance.

Hello Atlas
by Ben Handicott
illustrated by Kenard Pak
Wide Eyed Editions, 2016

What better way to get started on healing the world with kindness and acceptance than by being able to say HELLO! in many languages?!? One of the things I love best about this atlas is that the native/indigenous languages of each continent are represented predominantly (along with single examples of speakers of the common languages -- English, Spanish, etc.) This is a fabulous representation of the diversity of our world, but especially of our continent. A "window" for those of us who only speak the dominant language, this book shows that the native people in our country are not a thing of the past, but living (and speaking!) among us today. And what a powerful "mirror" for those who speak one of the original languages. Be sure you download the free app so you can actually hear the languages spoken!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poetry Friday -- IF

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Nicholas Flook
Did you see my post yesterday? If not, I'll wait a minute while you check it out.

Here's what happened in my notebook after I wrote that review. On the left, I listed (mostly) concrete ordinary items. On the right, I listed some of the not-always-fun things about adulting. Then, I paired them up (mostly) randomly.

Here are some of my IFs. I'm not sure IF they are a poem, but they were definitely fun to write! You give it a try!


If houseplants had jobs,
the commute would kill them.

If birdbaths had children,
the yard would be filled with puddles.

If the screen door paid bills,
the currency would be slams and breezes.

If clocks made investments,
only time would tell if it was all worth it.

If measuring cups had power of attorney,
responsibility would be calibrated.

If a window left a last will and testament,
it would be completely transparent.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Carol has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Laughing Out Loud

If Apples Had Teeth
by Shirley Glaser
illustrated by Milton Glaser
Enchanted Lion Books, August, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

You will want this book. It might change the way you look at the world.

Some of the IFs are practical:
"If apples had teeth, they would bite back."
"If a kangaroo was fond of you, he could carry your books home from school."

Some of the IFs rhyme or have alliteration:
"If a rhinoceros wore a sweater, he would look a lot better."
"If horses had hat racks, they would be reindeer."

But some of the IFs make you drop your chin:
"If eggs were made of glass, you could count your chickens before they hatched."
"If trees were pink, they would be nevergreens."

Did I mention the art? Very whimsical and fun!

Did I mention that this is a reprint from 1960, a year that may or may not have significance in my life? Here's a bit from Enchanted Lion about why they've brought this book back:
"Enchanted Lion's catalog currently pursues three different acquisition routes: origination, translation, and reissues. It feels important, especially in this moment, to bring back books that might otherwise be lost to time. We've published some treasures, including three André François books, this Glaser book, and our upcoming Jacqueline Ayer books. We're currently looking at another Glaser book and have begun working with out of print Remy Charlip books, which we're thrilled about. 
IF is a book that needed to be brought back. It's playful, smart, beautiful...we're so glad it hasn't been lost.

In terms of the art, the illustrations are hand drawn ink illustrations. A part of why they're so vivid and visually stunning is due to Pantone spot coloring process."
Excuse me while I open my notebook and see if I can write some IFs of my own!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Books I am Adding to My 5th Grade Classroom Library

Summer #bookaday is off to a great start. This week I discovered three books that I'll add to my classroom library this fall.

The Exact Location of Home is an upcoming novel by Kate Messner. It deals with issues of family, friendship and homelessness.  As always it is very well-done for middle grade readers and I imagine great conversations around this book.

I finally had a chance to read A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner after hearing so many good reviews of Rookie of the Year and Tournament of Champions. I love the characters in this book. This is another that will invite great conversations. It definitely did not disappoint and what a plus that there are now three books in this Rip and Red series.

Wishtree is the newest book by Katherine Applegate. A story of community, hope and healing that will engage readers from the first page.  The combination of Applegate's writing and her message make this one a must-have.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Classroom BookaDay

Our daily #classroombookaday (Thanks Jillian Heise and Donalyn Miller) is a favorite part of our school day.  We spend the last 5-8 minutes enjoying a book together. These books are often just fun reads that help us end the day with joy.  I am paying attention to new books I read this summer and creating a stack of possible #classroombookaday books. Usually I look for a shorter picture book that is light--I use the other, more complex picture books at other times during the school day. Here are a few books I've discovered this summer that might make great #classroombookaday selections!

Caring for Your Lion--a fun how-to book with lots of humor!

Give Me Back My Book--a fun read aloud with lots of great dialogue!

Nothing Rhymes with Orange-Poor Orange, nothing to rhyme with. Orange's side comments are quite amusing!

Professional Crocodile--a wordless book with a clever surprise!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Reading Without Walls

Midnight Without a Moon
by Linda Williams Jackson
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

This was a Gene Yang "Reading Without Walls" book for me. It's a Civil Rights story, but not "just another Civil Rights story." What makes it different is the point of view in the story and the authenticity of the author.

The story is set in rural Mississippi, where a black family and community process the push for voting rights, integrated schools, and Emmett Till's death. What seems obvious and easy from the outside (who wouldn't want the opportunity to vote?) was complicated in ways a white or a northerner couldn't imagine. There is pushback about change from the older members of the community, and intra-racial racism based on the lightness or darkness of skin.

The author was born and still lives in the Mississippi Delta. She gets the characters, setting and language right in a way no one else could.

I've tagged this book YA for language and violence. I think pairing it with The Hate U Give would provide an amazing experience for readers to understand the historical context for the modern story, and would prompt rich conversations between teens of all races. Like The Hate U Give, this is a debut novel.

I was thrilled to see that Midnight Without a Moon is book one in a series! Book two comes out in January of 2018.

A Sky Full of Stars
by Linda Williams Jackson
HMH Books for Young Readers, January, 2018

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Poetry Friday Roundup is HERE!

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Greg Wagoner

Playing Checkers With Vincent

Maybe I should have let him win.

He was an honest player,
showing me I could double jump him.

(I had forgotten about double jumps.
That's how long it had been since
my last checkers game.)

I thanked him for the tip
and didn't double jump him that time.

That counts, doesn't it?

He was an earnest player,
thinking through the if-thens of every move,
his strategy as transparent as his joy.
At one point, when I had two kings to his one
but there were still lots of checkers on the board,
he wanted to quit
but didn't.

He didn't flip the board
until my win was inevitable,
laughing gleefully,
no need to concede
because it was time to clean up
for free summer lunch.

Mini corndogs and fries
with two choices from the salad bar.

Maybe I had it all wrong.
Maybe he's the one who let me win.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Welcome to Poetry Friday, the ultimate win-win! You share a poem -- win! -- and read a few others -- win!

There is still ONE slot open on The Poetry Friday Roundup Schedule for July-December 2017 is COMPLETE! Thanks, all!

Leave your link in the comments and I'll round you up into this post throughout the day. Let the weekly celebration of poetry begin!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Kat at Katwhiskers is first up, enjoying autumn in Melbourne (in contrast to Queensland's quick shift from summer to winter).

Laura at Writing the World for Kids had her poem "The Genre Chant" published in the Journal of Children's Literature!

Irene at Live Your Poem brings us Five for Friday -- a delightful hodgepodge of poetry!

Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup is sharing a picture book from Hawaii called 'Iwalani's Tree.

Linda at A Word Edgewise has created an amazing concrete poem for Laura Shovan's Daily Poem Project.

Violet at Violet Nesdoly | Poems shares a senryu to celebrate parade season.

Brenda at Friendly Fairytales has written a stunning affirmation of self and becoming.

Linda at TeacherDance shares her original take on the 10 words from Laura Shovan's Daily Poem Project.

Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone had me at Ted Kooser, but wowed me with her partner poem set in Maine.

Carmela at Teaching Authors has written a tectractys in honor of the woman who is the subject of her upcoming biography (along with fascinating process notes about the writing of her book).

Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge is back, and she's sharing two recently published haiku.

Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme is celebrating several beginnings today.

Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference looks inside a mermaid's pocket and makes some amazing discoveries.

Donna at Mainely Write is...avoiding joy???

Michelle at Michelle Kogan is having fun with fairies -- in both art and poetry -- this week.

Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink is visualizing joy as she awaits the arrival of a new grandbaby. Be sure you check out her joy-filled poem-video.

Tara at A Teaching Life had me at Mary Oliver and then again at peonies. Ahhh...

Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Writing shares Haiku #4 (and some process notes) in her ongoing series.

Jane at Raincity Librarian shares the "tip of the verse novel iceberg." Be sure to weigh in with YOUR favorites!

Iphigene at Gathering Books has written the fourth poem in her series "Open Spaces" which pairs her original paintings with poems. Number four is stunning!

Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town shares two original poems written in her first week of summer break.

Margaret at Reflections on the Teche wrote an "I Spy" poem from a Poets&Writers prompt.

Christie at Wondering and Wandering has a heavy heart today. Many will be able to share her sorrow.

Diane has a pair of offerings. At Random Noodling she's got a new project that will make all of you (cat lovers, especially) laugh out loud, and at Kurious Kitty, a tribute to Cole Porter.

Catherine at Reading to the Core shares a "most perfect" poem for the day!

Laura at Laura Shovan celebrates Meg Eden's upcoming debut YA novel with a fascinating "% Questions" interview and an accompanying poem.

Carol at Carol's Corner spotlights a couple of poems from OUT OF WONDER, a fabulous new-to-her collection of tribute poems.

Amy at The Poem Farm is raising some future stars for Diane's Katkus!

Little Willow at Bildungsroman shares a poem about grit and perseverance.

Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge wrote another haiku this week.

Kay at A Journey Through the Pages tried a charita for the first time, writing about her community theater experience.

Poetry Princess Sara at Read Write Believe is a little late with her golden shovel, but wowser, has the wait been worth it!

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader wistfully shares a Naomi Shihab Nye poem upon her granddaughter' graduation from preschool.

Jone has a pair of offerings. At DeoWriter she shares a double cinquain that's shaped like a teardrop of sorrow, and at Check it Out, more joyous second grade poetry.

Amy at YMATRUZ Instinct shares a quote and three summery snippets of poetry. Cricket Booze Night made me laugh!

Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe has been a bit busy recently. She has some "lyrics as poetry" to celebrate all the endings in her house.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Making Wishes

Thousand Star Hotel
by The Okee Dokee Brothers
Sterling Children's Books, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher


Mr. and Mrs. Muskrat catch a giant golden catfish who asks for their mercy in return for a wish. Mrs. Muskrat wishes small and practical, but Mr. Muskrat keeps wishing bigger and bigger. His wish for not a 5-Star, but a Thousand Star hotel is granted, but you might guess from the cover that it's not quite what he expected. Luckily, Mrs. Muskrat knows how to make the best of the situation.

World Pizza
by Cece Meng
illustrated by Ellen Shi
Sterling Children's Books, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher


When mama sneezes just as she's wishing on a shooting star, it comes out sounding like she wishes for world pizza. So pizza begins raining from the sky all around the world -- pizza in every ethnic flavor known or not known to chefs:
"Some people dipped their pizza in hummus, while others dipped their piza in guacamole. Some people made pizza chow mein and some people made pizza sushi. Some even made pizza soup."
Pizza solves problems, brings people together, and inspires love and kindness. Maybe mama got her wish after all!

The Paper-Flower Tree
by Jacqueline Ayer
Enchanted Lion Books, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher


Miss Moon falls in love with the paper-flower tree carried by the man who is traveling through her small village. She wants one of her own. The man gives her a paper flower that has a small bead -- a seed, he says -- to plant, which she does, watering it and keeping watch over it in spite of all who ridicule her. A year later, when the old man returns again with a troupe of performers, she reminds him about the paper-flower tree seed and tells him she's planted it and cared for it. The next morning, there is a paper-flower tree blooming right outside her house. No one else in the village believes that it grew from the bead/seed, but Miss Moon believes.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Reading Without Walls

Forever, or a Long, Long Time
by Caela Carter
HarperCollins, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

This was a Gene Yang "Reading Without Walls" book for me. Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador of Young People's Literature, has chosen as his platform/project to encourage readers to
1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.
Forever, or a Long, Long Time fits the first two categories for me. The foster care system is filled with characters who aren't like me -- I've never been on either the giving or receiving end of foster care. And foster care is a topic about which I know little.

Both fourth grader Flora and her younger brother Julian have been traumatized by the foster care system, but the trauma manifests itself differently in each child. To balance the pain of seeing how these two children have been damaged, the author gives them a loving "forever family" that does everything possible to help the children adapt, learn to trust, and heal. She gives Flora an amazing teacher, who has a realistically nearly boundless supply of patience and differentiation to help Flora succeed. And because the main character is 4th -- going into 5th grade, the book is very sensitively written.

More than anything, this book is a deeply insightful look at what FAMILY means. Flora and Julian's new mom has married a divorced man with a daughter,  plus she's pregnant. When she takes Flora and Julian on a quest to discover their birth family roots, every possible variant of what foster care might look like is in their past, from loving to chaotic to brutally regimented.

This is a book about what IDENTITY means. Flora and Julian doubt the very existence of their birth because they have no baby pictures.

This is a book about TRUST, and what it takes to build trust where none has ever existed.

This is a book about HOPE. Everything doesn't get tied up in tidy bows, but by the end of the book you can see that all the parents' (and teacher's) hard work is paying off and although there will be challenges in the future when the baby comes, progress has been made. Flora and Julian are going to be okay.

This book is NOT The Great Gilly Hopkins (but they might make an interesting pairing). It's been a long time (very long time) since I read Gilly Hopkins, but I don't remember the characters seeming real -- they were more like caricatures. The characters in Forever, or a Long, Long Time are multi-faceted people you get to know from the inside. They are very real. They aren't perfect; they make mistakes.

There is one way that this book might be like Gilly Hopkins. There might be a shiny sticker in its cover's future...

Friday, June 02, 2017

Broadening Horizons, Part Three & Poetry Friday Edition

Let's Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood
by Patricia McKissack
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade, 2017
review copy purchased for my classroom collection

First of all, Patricia McKissack. Second of all, Brian Pinkney. Third of all, two girls in my classroom last year who struggled to define themselves (and others) in terms of race. I was often the enemy because I am white, so I did my best to fuel their passion to understand on their own terms what race means and doesn't mean with my choices for read aloud and #classroombookaday. They gravitated toward My People and Ashley Bryan's ABC of African American Poetry for Poetry Friday. I fed them a steady diet of Kwame Alexander, Rita Garcia Williams, Sharon Draper, and gave them the copies of Maniac Magee they hadn't finished at the end of the year.

This book came too late for them to discover, but I'll make sure it's among the first I feature next school year. There are songs and chants in this that I remember (or know some version of), but the message of a culture passed down through games, songs, and chants...the celebration of a culture through the window of childhood (rather than the Civil Rights Movement, as is so often the case)...the joy that exudes from every page of this book...this one's for you, girls. May you find a way to be comfortable in your own skin, and recognize that the world is not always against you...some of us want to dance right along with you, if only you'll teach us the moves!

If you're interested, the other two parts of this Broadening Horizons series are here and here.

Buffy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Buffy's Blog.

Check out this post to grab a Poetry Friday Roundup slot on the July-December calendar.

Poetry Friday -- Call For Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between June and December 2017, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in, but perhaps choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? You can grab the list from the sidebar here at A Year of Reading, or I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. You can always find the schedule on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!

And now for the where and when:

7  Carol at Beyond Literacy Link
14 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
21 Katie at The Logonauts
28 Linda at A Word Edgewise

4  Donna at Mainely Write
11 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Kay at A Journey Through the Pages
25 Jone at Check it Out

1  Kat at Kathryn Apel
8  Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
15 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
22 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

6  Violet at Violet Nesdoly | Poems
13 Irene at Live Your Poem
20 Leigh Ann at A Day in the Life
27 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales

3  Linda at TeacherDance
10 Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup
17 Jane at Raincity Librarian
24 Carol at Carol's Corner

1 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
8 Lisa at Steps and Staircases
15 Diane at Random Noodling
22 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
29 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Broadening Horizons With Play, Part Two

The Banana-Leaf Ball
by Katie Smith Milway
illustrated by Shane W. Evans
CitizenKid, 2017
review copy from the public library, on order for my classroom library

Another great CitizenKid book. The story of Deo is based on the true story of Benjamin Nzobonankira, who, at the age of 10, was a child refugee from Burundi. While in the refugee camp featured in the book, Lukole, Benjamin's life was impacted by a Right to Play volunteer and he went on to also become involved with Right to Play.

This is one of those rare books where the back matter is just as engaging as the story. I plan to incorporate the games (and information about the international organizations) listed in the back as team-builders and ice-breakers at the beginning of the year next fall!