Showing posts sorted by relevance for query barbara o'connor. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query barbara o'connor. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Celebrating Barbara O'Connor!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we are celebrating it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month, on the 1st (or so) of the month, we will celebrate a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

This month we are celebrating author, Barbara O'Connor.  We LOVE Barbara O'Connor. If you search "Barbara O'Connor" on our blog, you will see how obsessed with her books we actually are. We mention Barbara quite often, as a matter of fact!  How could we not love her so much? Her books are brilliant! She knows how to write for middle grade students in a way that is just right--she has a respect for these 8-12 year olds as human beings that comes out in all of her writing. So there's that. 

But there is also the voice she brings to the Kidlitosphere. Her blog celebrates literacy and children and teachers and schools.  She shares school visits and letters from her young fans. Her blog post and Facebook/Twitter (@barbaraoconnor) updates let us in on her life as a writer and as a person. She is generous with her time and seems to always make time for the children and teachers who are big fans of her work. The honesty and joy she brings to the conversation is one we celebrate today!

To honor Barbara, we made a donation to READ Dogs Minnesota: Improving Literacy One Tail at a Time, an organization that utilizes dogs as reading buddies. We thought this was a perfect tribute to Barbara O'Conner because it combines three things she cares about--literacy, children and dogs.  We think this organization is brilliant and have made a $25 donation in Barabara's honor.

Please help us celebrate Barbara O'Connor for all she does to celebrate children, teachers and schools!

Monday, August 06, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? On the Road to Mr. Mineos

Thanks to Jen and Kellee at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for hosting IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's
by Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
on shelves October 2, 2012

This week, we decided to share a book that we've both read recently, On the Road to Mr. Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor.  On the Road to Mr. Mineo's is the story of a one-legged pigeon. It is also the story of summer in a small town in the South. We both LOVED the book and have passed it along to other friends who have loved it too.  Because the plot defies simple summarization, we'll try to give you a feel for the story by interviewing each other about it.


If you were going to sum up this book in one word, what would it be? And why?
My word is CONVERGE. Each strand of this story is like one of those thin strips of plastic that we wove together into keychains once upon a time at summer camp. Every character's separate story converges with the others at the end. Each character's life becomes woven with the lives of the others at the end. Plus, converge sort of rhymes with Sherman, who is the one who brings everyone together. It also sort of rhymes with journey, which (although I was only supposed to pick one word) is my second pick for the one word that sums up this story.

What do you think Sherman was up to? Why wouldn't he go home and why did he finally decide to go home?
Great question! Sherman is a homing pigeon. He is hardwired (supposedly) to fly away, and then fly home again. Maybe this is a story about all the amazing things that might happen when we act unpredictably, when we break out of our molds. Or maybe it's just a story about a pigeon who doesn't go home, and who unintentionally weaves a story out of all the lives he touches. Why did he go home? That's easy. Why do we all go home in the end? The ones who love us most are there.


Who was your favorite character, and why?
Favorite character is hard in this one because I felt like I knew and loved every character by the end.  But I think I loved Stella first. So I'll go with that as my answer if I have to pick a favorite.  I liked Stella immediately. I liked that she was kind but tough. I liked that she so committed to that pigeon, no matter what that involved. I loved that she had the spunk to stand up to her brother and to take charge of almost everything. She is a tough girl with a soft heart.

And I want to pick another favorite. I loved Mr. Mineo. I loved how much he cared about the pigeons. I loved the way he talked to his dog. I loved the patience he had and how well he seemed to understand Sherman.  

Compare (or contrast) this book to another of Barbara O'Connor's books.
Greetings from Nowhere is one of my very favorite Barbara O'Connor books. I loved it immediately and read it aloud to my class the month it came out. I am a character-baesd reader and this book was character based. It was about many different people--every one of which I loved--who were on their own journey. But people who somehow connected when they needed each other most. I loved everything about this book and I see Mr. Mineo as being similar.  There are differences--Greetings is a bit quieter of a book. But both books are about individual people trying to find their way, individual people who are on different journeys. But in both books, something connects these people in a way that changes each of them. And I love that. This idea probably is the idea in every one of Barbara O'Connor's books ( a reason I love her work:-) but these two stand out for me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

20th Annual Dublin Literacy Conference -- Barbara O'Connor

What's almost as much fun as a group of bloggers who come to the same conference?

A group of bloggers who finally get to meet one of their favorite authors...who is also a blogger!

I'm not sure if we were more excited to meet Barbara O'Connor, or for Barbara O'Connor was more excited to meet us! Let me tell you, there was a lot of hugging and squealing whichever way you look at it!

I had the great honor of being Barbara's personal assistant for the day. I got to hear how the book MISSING MAY by Cynthia Rylant changed her life. I learned that Loretta is her favorite character in her own book GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE. And I was treated to her reading from all of her books, especially her work in progress, which features a frog in a pot of soup and something that falls off a train -- but she's not telling what!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How Much Can You Love Barbara O'Connor?

So, I LOVED HOW TO STEAL A DOG. I think it is one of the best read aloud books out there for grades 3-5. So, I was very excited to see that GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE was available at Cover to Cover.

I can't tell you how much I love this book. For me, it was a cross between all of my favorites. Sometimes I felt like I was reading Cynthia Rylant. Sometimes I felt like I was reading Kate DiCamillo. It made me feel like lots of my favorites (VAN GOGH CAFE, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, WHERE THE HEART IT). Barbara O'Connor seems to have found a voice in this one that is brilliant. The story is simple--a group of people who seem to need each other and find things out about themselves because of the time they spend together.

Barbara O'Connor takes us to the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smokey Mountains. And she introduces us to characters who will live with us for along time. I can tell that these are characters I will think about for a very long time, even though I have finished reading the book.

I have decided to read this one aloud to my 3rd and 4th graders starting later this week. It may be a bit sophisticated for them but I don't think so. I think when you read about characters you come to love, it is big.

Really, I can't imagine loving a book more than I loved this one. It was really quite a perfect book.

(I went back to watch the book trailer on the book. I figured I wouldn't like it now that I had read the book, but I LOVED it! It is perfect. Totally captures the feel of the book. Brilliant!)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Interesting Trio of Books

Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley (website)
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes (website and blog)
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor (website and blog)

I checked out all three from the library to see whether or not I needed to own them. I read them all and I just purchased all three.

Dads are missing from all three stories: In Greetings, he hasn't returned home from Vietnam; in Letters, he's in the hospital with clinical depression; in Steal a Dog, he walked out on the family, leaving them homeless.

Great boy character in Greetings. Harry and Taran are the only other good boy characters in my summer reading (not on purpose). Theo is smart and curious and persistent.

Smart and curious and persistent also describe Cadence in Letters. Holmes captures/creates an authentic voice in the letters that Cadence writes. Georgina's voice in Steal a Dog is also spot on and crystal clear.

All three books are similar in the way the authors have masterfully woven the plot line. In Greetings, Kerley weaves together the best and worst of our nation in the late 1970's: space travel and the Vietnam War. In Letters, Holmes combines clinical depression, fairy tales, poetry, and the trials and tribulations of the gifted child. In Steal a Dog, Holmes gives poverty and homelessness a variety of different faces and voices which defy common sterotypes.

Out of all three, it was Steal a Dog that gripped my gut and made me talk out loud to the main character. ("What do you think you're doing?!?!?") I had thought there was a sense of doom and foreboding in Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli. Turns out, watching a character wait for his 10th birthday and the awfulness of becoming a wringer at the town pigeon shoot was nothing compared to watching Georgina blunder her way through the social and emotional chaos of living out of a car, the plan, the theft, the cover-up, and the realization that she has gotten herself in so deep that there is no graceful way out.

I'll keep Greetings and Letters for personal recommendations to 4th/5th graders. How to Steal a Dog will be one of my first read alouds.

* * * *

Mindy's interview of Barbara Kerley at propernoun
Kelly's interview of Barbara Kerley at Big A little a
7-Imp's interview of Barbara Kerley at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Little Willow's Poetry Friday from Letters from Rapunzel
7-Imp's review of Letters from Rapunzel
BooksForKidsBlog's review of Letters From Rapunzel
Midwestern Lodestar's thoughts on How to Steal a Dog
Brianne Reads and Reviews review of How to Steal a Dog
Barbara O'Connor's story of how a failed picture book turned into two novels: How to Steal a Dog and, coming in spring 2008, Greetings from Nowhere

EDITED TO ADD: Julius Lester's thoughts on Vietnam vs. Iraq, an interesting companion to Greetings from Planet Earth

Sunday, April 06, 2014

New Possibilities with Padlet

I'm participating in a Heinemann webinar series that Kristin Ziemke is doing . She is my new favorite person and I've learned so much from her over the last few weeks.  Her classroom is amazing and she embed technology in thoughtful and authentic ways.

One thing Kristin showed was a Padet she created for participants of the webinar series ( I know Padlet and I've used it lots. But I've used it in a very simple way. I've used it for kids to put sticky notes up as a way to think collectively I had no idea it could be used as a conversation starter with videos, images, padlets on padlets and more. Her Padlet gave me new visions for what Padlet can do. I didn't know you could change the background. I had missed so much about this tool. 

So I played around with a few ways to use Padlet as a way to begin conversations and as a way to collect our thinking. I also think it will be a great way for kids to access learning and to continue the conversation at home.

I played with a board to think about how I might use Padlet in Read Aloud.  We are currently reading How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  I created a board with the cover of the book, a book trailer and a link to Barbara O'Connor's website.  We have had so much success with Corkulous as a way to stretch and collect our thinking around read aloud that Padlet seems to add even more options.  I can see adding a board within a board to do the things we are doing on Corkulous. And since it is web-based, it can be accessed from home and school.

We also played with a board to collect and add to as a class.  We have a bird watching area at our school and we've been spending time there for some of our science and math work.  The Padlet board shares the ways we are using various tools to collect information.  This is a site that will help us see how different tools can be used for different purposes. Hopefully it will start a conversation around tools that really help you observe and collect data in efficient ways.  

Today, I attended the Literacy Connection Event and Ruth Ayres spoke about Writing Celebrations.  She talked about the importance of writing celebrations--both the process and the product.   I'm thinking now of ways I can you Padlet for writing celebrations. I am thinking we can share lines we've written,a board of  links to finished products, a board of student writing with room for response. I am going to play some more to see where this thinking might go.

I have been playing with lots of tools over the last few years but, I so love finding one tool and thinking of new possibilities for use.  I am going to focus on this one tool for a while and think about various ways to use it, play around with what the tool can do and grow some possibilities!  Thanks Kristin for stretching my thinking about using this tool for more than one thing!

*For more posts on Digital Literacy, visit Reflections on the Teche for the Link Up!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Author Interview with Barbara O'Connor

I have a group of four students who have decided to do a blog series of Author Interviews. Their first one was with Barbara O'Connor and it is now posted on our class blog.  It is a great interview and this team has more interviews coming soon.

If you are interested in watching the interview, here is the link.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What to Read Aloud Next?

Seems only fair to follow the "Why Read Aloud?" post with one about the challenges of picking the next great read aloud!

We finished The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor last week, and had fun drinking Yoo-Hoo (my first ever!) and making Yoo-Hoo boats with secret messages in them (folded once, twice, three times).

I'd love to read another Barbara O'Connor book (especially after Carol's amazing post on the power of reading aloud How to Steal a Dog and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester).  Great for talking about an author's style.  Great stories. Fun characters.

If my students were two years older, I'd read Adam Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm or Lynne Rae Perkins' As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth.

The book by which my class measures all books this year is Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Emily's Fortune, so maybe they'd like the comic book-style superhero action of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation.

I'm not sure they're up for a 400+ page read aloud, but I'm going to do my best to sell them on

The Search for WondLa
by Tony DiTerlizzi
Simon and Schuster, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

I didn't read this book because Al Roker picked it for his Today Show Book Club, I read it because it was next up on the pile, but once I started it, I couldn't put it down (and luckily, because we had an ice day, I didn't have to).

This is my favorite kind of science fiction, with a whole new world -- plants, animals and landscape -- to explore and experience with the main character. DiTerlizzi does a fabulous job describing everything without overwhelming the reader (the frequent illustrations help, too).

Eva seems to be the last (only?) human on the planet. She has been raised in a subterranean sanctuary by a robot she knows at Muthr. Their home is attacked and Eva escapes to the surface of the planet where she must survive for real, not in a hologram practice session.  She depends on her wits and the help of her omnipod handheld (more-than-just-a) computer, a blue creature who speaks an unknown language, and a giant pill bug that communicates telepathically.

There are lots of questions that keep the story moving along: who is hunting down Eva and why, what do the letters "Wond" and "La" and the picture of the girl and a robot on the scrap of the paper Eva treasures mean, and where are the other humans who once lived on this planet?

The book ends with almost as many questions as it begins with -- it is the first book in a series and there is a serious cliffhanger at the end!

Tony DiTerlizzi reacts to THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA being picked for Al Roker's Today Show Book Club.
The book's website, including a trailer, games, and augmented reality.
A peek at how the augmented reality works.

Great Kid Books
Charlotte's Library

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

QR CODE Book Previews in the Library

I have been working with students in the library on choosing good books. Many students who quit books before they finish, don't always spend much time previewing before they decide on a book.  They get excited about one thing they read or see and then jump in, only to find that the book isn't what they had expected. I am working with them to take more time to preview. There are so many great new ways to preview with the tools available today. Kids can listen to podcasts, can learn about the writing of a book from the author, watch book trailers, and more.  I want my students to know all that is out there around a great book.

As you may know if you read my blog, I am newly obsessed with QR Codes. After reading Jeff Utecht's blogs post that explained the codes, I carry my iPhone around hoping to find one everywhere.  SLJ also ran an article on the uses of QR Codes in the library.  I love the student written QR code review on the sidebar of the article.  I think if kids know what is possible, they can begin to create these.

I created the above sheet of QR Codes to go along with Barbara O'Connor's new book The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.  Each QR Code takes readers to a different place--the video book trailer, Barbara O'Connor's website, the publisher page for the book, and a blog review.  I think the sheet of QR Codes will allow students to have quick access to sites around books that I may share or book talk. Rather than searching for reviews or typing in URL codes, students can get right to the sites with QR codes. This will give them experience finding lots of information on a book, visiting sites they might want to go back to.  In time, they can begin to create QR codes of their own book reviews as well as sites around books.

QR Codes are a little trickier at the elementary level because most of our students do not carry smart phones with them. But we do have access to a few iPods with cameras and I am looking for a desktop QR Reader that works well with Mac. I want my students to have their eyes open to these QR Codes in the world.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What To Do About Alice?

What To Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt broke the rules, charmed the world and drove her father Teddy crazy!
by Barbara Kerley
illustrated by Edward Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

Barbara Kerley's website
Classroom activities for What To Do About Alice

Check out reviews at:
Big A little a
Becky's Book Reviews
Wild Rose Reader
the excelsior file

The topic of my minilesson in reading workshop was "Pay Attention to the Way the Character in Your Book Changes." I led off with Crash, by Jerry Spinelli, and my already-familiar story of staying with that book only because I knew Jerry Spinelli HAD to make Crash, one of the most despicable characters (my opinion) in children's literature, change by the end of the book, and I wanted to be there to see it.

Then I showed them the way Pam Muñoz Ryan clues the reader in to her main character's changes in Paint the Wind by making each section of the book a faster and faster gait of a horse, beginning with walk and ending with gallop. I told them that both of the main children characters in Ryan's book are not very nice to begin with, but that the author shows you their family situations and you understand why they are like that. And they both do change.

Next, I shared The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, which I was in the midst of listening to at the time. I told them about the annoying character Constance Contraire, whose very name even means "always irritating," and how the characters in the book are in the same place as the reader in wondering why she's that way and when she's going to change. (She never does change, and for myself and all the other readers like me who didn't put together the numerous clues we were given, the author explains why at the end of the book. Clever author!)

I ended the minilesson by sharing the story of an amazing, strong-willed, unusual character who doesn't change: Alice Roosevelt, in What To Do About Alice, by Barbara Kerley. We wondered at this remarkable woman's life-long resistance of the status quo, and were amazed by how fully she lived her life from childhood through old age -- always on her own terms.

Then I sent them off to read and to pay attention to the ways their characters did and didn't change.

Later that day, during read aloud (Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor), the topic of characters who change and don't change came up again. But that's another story for another post. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Movie Thursday

Let's curl up on my new couch and watch some movies, okay?

I rented a couch once, when I lived in Dallas.

There have been no other couches in my life since then.

All the thousands of great books I've read in the past half-a-lifetime, and none of them read curled up on the end of a couch.

Well, that's all changing now. The first thing I did yesterday after it was delivered was grab the next book on my to-read list, The Garden of Eve, Beth's recommendation, cover up with a throw, make room for the cat, and read!

Now, the videos. First, coming from The Reading Zone, a thoughtful piece from a Kansas State University Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class about student learning in the 21st Century. The focus is college students, but there is lots of truth here about ALL of our students...and the disconnect between the ways we teach, the materials we use, and their lives outside of school.

Next, from Megan Germano, arguably the world's greatest Barbara O'Connor fan, and also from Barbara's blog, the book trailer for Barbara's spring release, Greetings from Nowhere.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Best Books of 2007 and A Newbery Roundup

Last year, we posted our Top 5 lists and did a Newbery Roundup--everyone's predictions for the Newbery. This year, the Newbery Award will be announced earlier than usual--on Monday, January 14. And our very own, Monica, has been busy serving on the committee!

There are many Mock Newbery Awards going on around the country. Many groups are getting ready to vote on their winners. In the meantime, you can see their final lists. Allen County, Anderson's Bookshop, Rhode Island Libraries, BCCLS, and Sharon's Newbery are some of the groups we follow.

Lots of people have been posting their own "Best of 2007" lists over the last few weeks including Miss Erin, Kids Reads, and Fuse #8 (who has some very fun categories!).

Franki's Top Books of 2007
I've read some GREAT children's books this year. I think that it was a great year for books and I couldn't seem to get my list down to my top five so I went with 10 that seem Newberyish to me! (There were lots more I loved too and it was so hard to decide!)

Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
Aurora County All Stars by Deborah Wiles
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
Moxy Maxwell by Peggy Gifford
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros

By the way, I am currently about 1/2 way through Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George and AM LOVING IT so it could change my list a bit before Newbery day.

Mary Lee's Lists
Like Franki, I'm not done reading 2007 books, so my thinking may change in the next two weeks. For now, here are my short lists of 5 favorite books in each of these categories:

Kids books (younger)
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Moxy Maxwell by Peggy Gifford
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper
Simply Sarah: Patches and Scratches by P.R. Naylor

Kids' books (older)
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Edward's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis

Graphic Novels
(Stay tuned for the Cybils Graphic Novels short lists -- I'm on the nominating committee so it wouldn't be proper for me to list personal favorites here!)

Neither Fish nor Fowl
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik
Faradawn (Fogmound II) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney

Adult books (read in 2007)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Why I'm Like This by Cynthia Kaplan
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Audiobooks (listened to in 2007)
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Magyk by Angie Sage
Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini

Since we started our blog as a way to chat about our reading leading up to the Newbery Award, we thought we'd round up your Newbery picks. A few weeks ago, we had several kids' lit friends predict the Newbery on our blog. So many possibilities! So, if you post your picks on your blog, put the link in the comments and we'll add them to our list. We'll post the round up next Friday or Saturday so send us your posts before then.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stray Dogs Who Save Lives

First there was Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This scruffy dog who smiles shows up in India Opal's life and helps her to make friends and learn to navigate through a life without a mother.

Then last summer, there was Wish by Barbara O'Connor. Wishbone the stray and Howard the surprising neighbor help Charlie deal with her challenging family while she works on making her wish come true.

Last month, when I read Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm, I realized there was a text set coming together -- here's another book with a stray dog in it! Beans saves Termite's life.

The very next book I read after Full of Beans was Liberty, the third (and best, in my opinion) book in Kirby Larson's Dogs of War series. Here we have yet another stray dog who gives the main character purpose and direction. Set in the 1940's in New Orleans, Fish is a white boy with polio who lives with his older sister while his father is away fighting in Europe. His friendship with his neighbor Olympia crosses racial lines and they are unified by their plans to save Liberty. There's even a subplot with a German prisoner of war.

Besides having stray dogs in common, each of these books has a strong sense of place and time, and I just realized as I'm typing this that they are all set in the South!

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been reading a lot this summer and have not shared much of my reading on the blog yet. So, for today's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Thanks to Jen and Kelly for hosting the roundup!) I thought I'd share some books that I thought were must-reads for different reasons. 

Picture Books

I have quite a collection of books about reading and I am happy to be adding this new picture book!

This book made me laugh out loud.  A funny book about a barnacle with nothing much to do.

A great story about a girl who has a fabulous dollhouse that she has created from a cardboard box.  I love the whole idea of creation behind this story.

The Cookie Fiasco and We Are Growing! (September 20)
These are the first two books coming out in the new "Elephant and Piggie Like Reading" series. They are both fabulously fun and perfect for young readers!

Middle Grade Novels

The Poet's Dog (September 13)
A new book by Patricia MacLachlan. I loved this book--the characters, their stories, the relationships. It appealed to me as an adult reader and think it would be a good read for upper elementary students.

In this story of September 10 , we get to know several characters will be impacted personally by the events of September 11.  This is very well done for middle grade students.

A book told in two voices--one character just moved to a new school from India.  Joe, has been at the school his whole life but still feels like he does not belong.  A powerful story with lots to talk about.

I love Jason Reynold's YA books and was thrilled to see his new middle grade novel.  I loved this book--it is a quieter story but his characters make this book what it is. They will stay with me for a very long time.

Wish (August 30)
Barbara O'Connor does it again. She writes the perfect middle grade novel every time.  This is the story of Charlie, a stray dog and a wish.

I have been looking forward to this book for months, ever since Donalyn Miller recommended it. It is one of the best middle grade/middle school fantasies I've read in a long time. I loved everything about it--the characters, the issues and themes, the plot, the writing.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Celebrate -- The Kidlitosphere!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we have celebrated it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month this year, we have celebrated a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

In January, we launched the year by celebrating Kevin Hodges.
In February, we celebrated Ruth Ayres.
In March, we celebrated The Nerdy Book Club.
In April, we celebrated Pernille Ripp.
In May, we celebrated Jen Robinson.
In June, we celebrated Mother Reader.
In July, we celebrated Mr. Schu.
In August, we celebrated Kate Messner.
In September, we celebrated Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.
In October, we celebrated Sylvia Vardell.
In November, we celebrated Barbara O'Connor.

We're going to end our year of celebrating bloggers who are children's literature fanatics, teachers, teachers-of-teachers, librarians, authors, and poets who inspire us the most by celebrating those who help to build and maintain the Kidlitosphere "community" itself.

Here's to all the bloggers behind the scenes who curate the webpage, Kidlitosphere Central, organize the yearly conference, KidLitCon, coordinate and judge and blog about the CYBILS (Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards), and run the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group

This is a huge group of volunteers who make the world of blogging a better place by making it feel more like a cozy neighborhood and less like an indifferent city.

To honor ALL of the bloggers who keep the wheels of the Kidlitosphere machinery running smoothly, we made a donation to the CYBILS.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  is a MUST READ in 2014. It is so good that you should rearrange your TBR stack and put this one on top. I actually think it is so good, that you should read it even if you don't read much middle grade fiction.  I can't think of anyone I know who shouldn't put it at the top of their stack.

I am a HUGE Lisa Graff fan.  I think her books are PERFECT middle grade novels. There are not many authors who can write for that age with enough depth to actually change the readers who read the books, and also in a way that it is accessible to 9-11 year olds. Lisa Graff is one of those authors.
I loved The Thing About Georgie when it came out years ago and I have loved everyone one of Graff's books, especially Umbrella Summer and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower .

Absolutely Almost may be Lisa Graff's best book yet (even though her others are amazing!). The book is about a 5th grader named Albie who is not so good at anything. He struggles with lots of things, pretty much everything, including learning.  Albie is a character you love from the very start.  He is a great kid, someone you'd love to hang out with.  He has so many strengths and his new babysitter sees all of them. Albie comes to learn lots about himself in this book. I checked around on the web and pretty much everyone loves this book. If I haven't convinced you to read it, here are some other reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird

Carol's Corner

Barbara O'Connor

Two Reflective Teachers

Debbie Alvarez

And read all of the Lisa Graff books that you haven't read while you are at it. I love them all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, Erin Soderberg for an Amazing Skype Visit!!

Last week, we had the opportunity to Skype with author Erin Soderberg. Erin is the author of The Quirks: Welcome to Normal and The Quirks in Circus Quirkus--the first two books in a series that is quite popular in our classroom this year!  

The kids were VERY excited about this Skype visit. Our last Skype (another highlight of the year!) was with author Barbara O'Connor. We had read her book How to Steal a Dog aloud so everyone in the class had read the book together. But The Quirks was different. I read the first book in the series over winter break and knew immediately that my students would love it. I handed it to a student who handed it to another student. Within a week, there were so many kids that wanted to read the book that we asked our librarian to order more. He ordered 5 and a group of kids had their first book club around the book. I bought 2 copies of the 2nd book in the series and that began to circulate.   By the time we had the Skype visit, almost all of the students had read at least one of the books.  

This book took on a life of its own in the classroom. Usually, when I find a book like this, I decide to read it aloud. And I may have, had it been earlier in the school year. But this series was one that my kids LOVED to read on their own. They loved the story and the characters. They loved that it was the buzz in the room. And they loved that they could read something independently that seemed a little bit harder and longer than the books they were comfortable with. For many of my students, this book gave them confidence to stretch themselves as readers. It helped them see how much they'd grown.  This book didn't make its way around the classroom because I shared it. Instead, the students owned this one--that's what makes it such a perfect book for 8 and 9 year olds.

In February, I wrote about this series as a MUST HAVE for 3rd and 4th grades. If you don't know The Quirks books, there are 2 in the series. Both focus on a family, called The Quirks.  The Quirks are anything but normal.  They are quite..quirky. Each family member has some kind of quirk or power but they try to hide these from the rest of the world as they often get them into trouble.  Such a perfect mix of real life and fantasy--no wonder kids love it.

There is also a lot of fun in the books--fun magic. Two of my favorite shows growing up were I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched and the magic in these books reminded me a bit of those shows--very fun magic that I so wished I could do when I was younger!  

Author Erin Soderberg was amazing during our Skype visit. She had the kids engaged in the first 30 seconds with her enthusiasm and personality. She talked to us a bit and let us in on a few secrets about the Quirks. That was fun! Then we asked questions.

Before the Skype, we brainstormed questions for Erin.  I loved listening to their questions.  The thoughtfulness of each question made me happy and it became clear how well the kids knew the story and the characters. I also loved how clear it was that they understood authors. During the creation of the list, they kept talking and saying things like "I wonder why she decided to..." . They so understand authors as decision-makers and many of their questions focused on that part of the process.

It was a great day and we can't WAIT until the 3rd book in the series comes out in January 2015.  My students are already begging to read it first even though they will be in 4th grade next year.  They are VERY excited about this upcoming book!

Again, this book is one of my favorite new series for middle grade readers.  I'm so glad that there are more books coming! 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Corkulous for Read Aloud

I have been thinking about ways to use digital tools in authentic ways in literacy workshop. With a few laptops and a couple of iPads in the room, I am finding some challenges.  Recently, I read Katharine Hale's post "Digital Corkboard:  A Game Changes for Readers" on her fabulous blog, Teachitivity. We don't have Corkulous on our student iPads but I put it on my teacher iPad and decided we'd use it for read aloud. I have the board on my iPad and I am projecting on to the Smartboard with Air Play/Air Server.

We started out on Day 1 previewing our new read aloud How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  We started off with 2 columns--things we know after previewing and questions we have. 

It was on Day 2 of reading How to Steal a Dog that I saw the possibilities of a tool like Corkulous.  I've always believed strongly in charts and writing to deepen thinking while reading.  And I've been thinking hard about how to make charts better after reading Smarter Charts.  But as we started talking on Day 2, I realized that even though this chart wasn't "up" all day, kids were using it differently as we talked.  Kids started connecting comments we made on stickies and I was able to move those around/rearrange them so threads of conversation emerged. That's always happened a bit with traditional charting during read aloud, but in a traditional way that makes it harder for kids to follow. With Corkulous, I could move and change our thinking as we went.

Since kids had no experience with Corkulous, I was playing with sticky color, arrows, labels, etc. just so they could see all that was possible.  With the projection, they could see the way I used the tool AND the way it was supporting our thinking.  By later this week, our board continues to change. In the bottom right, you'll see the arrow stickies listing Georgina's possible character traits. This started as a conversation about Georgina being sneaky . Then one day, a student decided we should take one of the traits off because the more we read, the more we realized it didn't describe her anymore.  Then kids started talking about which words described her best so we rearranged the arrows--those few on the left are the ones that seem to capture Georgina at this point in the story, based on what we know about her.

Read Aloud is a huge anchor in our classroom.  It is the time that we come together as a community and dig into one book, learning from everyone's thinking.  For that reason, charting has always been key.  But with Corkulous, even after just a week of Read Aloud. I am seeing that yes, this is a game changer.

First of all, the size of the chart makes it very engaging.  I could technically create something like this on chart paper or a board but the size of the Smartboard makes it readable to everyone.  And I can zoom in to the section of the board we are talking about.  I can arrange and rearrange thinking and kids are seeing how writing and talk change thinking and how our thinking changes over a book.  Kids are not only adding to the conversation about the book, but they are suggesting things that  should do with our board--"Move that orange one that the place where we are thinking about Georgina." or "I think we should delete the sticky that says Georgina is naughty.".

I've always believed strongly in Readers' Notebooks as a way for students to capture their thinking in writing.  Now, there are so many other options available with digital tools.  I love this tool for the conversations and understandings that are happening because of it.  And I also love that it is modeling another tool that supports readers in digging deeper in their reading.

I continue to find that when I play with new digital tools, focusing on the learning makes it almost risk-free.  I know my focus is on reading and thinking so if this tool hadn't worked so well, it would have been okay because my focus was on the literacy learning, not the tool.  Although the tool is very cool, the power has been in what it has done for our conversations and how we've been able to capture that as a community.

(I'm hoping to have Katharine's students talk to my students after we've played with this a bit--to share ways that they are using the tool to clarify and deepen understanding.)

Check out other digital literacy posts in the roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is tomorrow! If you don't know about World Read Aloud Day or its sponsoring organization LitWorld, you should check out their website asap.  (In December, I posted information on how to register for the event.)  This is one of those amazing events that you can participate in in so many ways. You can make it a huge event or a little celebration.

I am celebrating with my students tomorrow by beginning the conversation of Reading as a Gift/The Gift of Reading.  I'll kick off the day reading Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr .  Even though it is a simple book, it should start lots of great conversations. Then I'll share a few videos --one from the LitWorld site and one from Kobo Books that was a Mother's Day video.

I'll also share a few videos that were shared on the WRAD blog--where authors gave their time to read aloud.  I think these 3 videos will help kids understand the idea of this being a global celebration. They will also hopefully begin to think of reading as a gift.

We are giving the gift of reading and receiving the gift of reading on World Read Aloud Day.  We'll spend a bit of time in the morning reading to our Kindergarten students.  Then we'll have a short Skype visit with author Barbara O'Connor who is giving her time to classrooms in celebration of World Read Aloud Day.

I think these few things will begin a larger conversation that will hopefully continue throughout the year--the rights of all people to read and the idea of reading as a gift (to give and to receive).  I am hopeful that kids will come up with ways to give back to our own school community with the gift of reading in some way.   I'm not sure exactly where the conversation will go but I am anxious to celebrate and see where the conversations take us!

Thank you LitWorld for inventing such a wonderful day!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NCTE Reflections

It's hard to believe that a week ago I was in Orlando attending NCTE's Annual Convention. It seems like yesterday, and it seems like it's been months, all rolled into one.

There was time Wednesday evening after we got in for my one Disney Experience. I chose Epcot. We rode a few rides, took a brief walking tour of the world, hugged Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too, and saw the amazing fireworks.

Thursday was my Vacation in Florida Experience. I swam laps in an outdoor pool, made some vitamin D the old fashioned way, and caught my breath from the whirlwind week of teaching, grading, and sub plans.

Thursday evening at the Elementary Section Get-Together, Stenhouse Editorial Director Philippa Stratton received the NCTE Outstanding Educator in the Language Arts Award, and our blogging pal from Hilliard, Julie Johnson, received the Donald Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing. At dinner, I sat next to Louise Borden and across from/next to Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. (mandatory name-dropping)

Friday morning, I was due at the Yacht Club for a 7am Children's Literature Assembly board meeting. Disney Magic got me there on time with a magic carpet ride my very own van ride as the sun rose. After the board meeting, and upon my return to Coronado Springs, I snuck into the end of the Poets and Bloggers session, did some hard thinking in a session about how to teach 21st Century Literacies in spite of the "reforms" that would make sure our students can pass a test but not ensure that they would grow up THINKING, and got another dose of poetry at the Poetry for Children Notables session. Friday evening was all about the communities of writers I am privileged and honored and proud to belong to: the Stenhouse reception was followed by the Choice Literacy dinner. (Too many names to drop without forgetting some, but I would be remiss if I didn't thank Stenhouse for continuing to include me as one of their own, and Brenda Power for her incredible generosity, creative vision, and passion for teaching and leading.)

Saturday sessions/thinking: using conferences in writing workshop as a kind of formative assessment; smart ways to use picture books; three hours of talking about books and winnowing our list of Notables (fabulous committee, must drop names: Mary Napoli, April Bedford, Nancy Roser, Donalyn Miller, Yoo Kyung Sung, Tracy Smiles), and then a dinner sponsored by Macmillan. The authors at the dinner were fun, but it was also great to spend a little time with Elaine Magliaro, Trisha Stohr-Hunt, Karen Terlecky, and Barbara O'Connor. (drop, drop)

On Sunday, those who attended the Children's Literature Assembly breakfast were treated to an amazing talk by David Wiesner about his newest book, ART AND MAX. (There was much bantering later on Twitter between certain pairs of friends -- @donalynbooks / @PaulWHankins, and @maryleehahn / @frankisibberson -- about who is Art and who is Max.)

More about ART AND MAX here and here.

After the breakfast, I presented on reading workshop with Franki, Aimee Buckner and Donalyn Miller, then raced to Coronado Ballroom H and presented about the 2010 Notables (2009 books). After we talked briefly about the 30 books, there were 8-minute roundtable sessions with some of the authors. I got to hear Rebecca Stead (WHEN YOU REACH ME), Alexis Frederick-Frost (ADVENTURES IN CARTOONING), Ching Yeung Russell (TOFU QUILT), and Linda Barrett Osborne (TRAVELING THE FREEDOM ROAD). (drop, drop)

Two of my favorite people to run into in the hallways or in sessions were Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Heidi Mordhorst. We know each other mostly on our blogs, but it's amazing how well we know each other. Heidi picked right up on my penchant for purple, and I gave her an idea for her next book. Amy and I sat on a bench in the hallway and chatted like sorority sisters.

(This post is getting way too long and I'm 1/2 hour over budget time-wise, but we're almost to the end, so let's just finish it up...)

Monday was the Children's Literature Assembly workshop. Now, I know there are some die-hard ALAN fans out there, but CLA puts on a classy workshop for those of us who work with younger readers. The CLA workshop is not about speed and huge boxes of books. There were 5 author/illustrators and we left with a stack of 7 picture books. We heard Doreen Rappaport talk about her  recent series of biographies, especially Martin's Big Words and John's Secret Dreams, which were both illustrated by Bryan Collier. Then we got to hear Bryan Collier. After a break, Andrea Davis Pinkney sang to us, and talked about Sit In. After lunch, David Diaz taught us to draw and told us about his process for Me, Frida.

We ended the day with a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, led by Hester Bass (she ALSO sang to us!), who wrote about the artist Walter Anderson in Orbis Pictus winner, The Secret Life of Walter Anderson. Her slide show gave us a peek into the process that E.B. Lewis used to create the amazing illustrations from extensive research and photographs taken on a site visit with Hester.

Next year when you are planning your NCTE experience, consider staying on Monday for the CLA Workshop! It is a fabulous, intimate day with children's authors and illustrators.

And now it's time for me to get back to my current reality: lesson plans, grading, and an attempt to make my days at NCTE a part of my life in the classroom.