Monday, August 10, 2020

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

My Life in the Fish Tank
by Barbara Dee
Expected Publication September 15, 2020
Aladdin Books (Simon and Shuster)
Middle Grade Novel
320 Pages
Review copy Provided by Publisher

Goodreads Summary
When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.

It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.

The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?

My Thoughts
I was already a fan of Barbara Dee after reading Halfway Normal, Everything I Know About You and Maybe He Just Likes You, so I knew this was going to be a really great story.  And I was right! After her older brother, Gabriel, is in a car accident, it is revealed that he is also living with bipolar disorder which has led to him exhibiting some risky and dangerous behaviors. Shortly after, Gabriel leaves home to get treatment in a residential facility and the family is in a state or upheaval. Zinny needs to deal with her feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety and has lost friendships. One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed is the focus is not fully on Gabriel, his disorder and recovery, but more on how the diagnosis has impacted the family. 
The story is narrated in third person which is effective in showing how each member of the family deals with this challenge in their own way. Dee explores each character to show a full spectrum of coping strategies and feelings. 
I would highly recommend this book for grades 5-8. It would also make a good read aloud for grades 4+. 

See What Others Have to Say About My Life in the Fish Tank:

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It's Monday, What Are you Reading? August 3, 2020

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Here are a few books I read last week at the lake. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

A nonfiction graphic novel showing how women (very slowly) became part of space exploration in the US. 

I fell in love with the main characters, but all of the characters are extremely well-developed. The many story lines weave together beautifully and Pennypacker does an excellent job of making the setting feel like a character. 

This one was not for me.

This book is quite different from many historical fiction books. The reader travels through time with a sharecropper family from the Mississippi south. I was invested in the characters and wanted to see how it continued to develop. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

I read the digital galley, which did not have all the images quite yet so I did not get to see all the maps and illustrations. It is filled with really interesting facts about the staff that have supported the First Family for decades. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

Wow! A beautiful collection of old and new poems by the US Poet Laureate, Noami Shihab Nye. My faves were Always Bring a Pencil and Gate A-4. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

Currently Listening

Currently Reading

Monday, July 20, 2020

It's Monday, What Are you Reading? July 20, 2020

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Here are a few books I read last week. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

Loved it! Full Review tomorrow. 

Alan Katz writes silly books and poems and this series is no exception. None of the information is actually true and the events never happened. There is a very short (factual) biographical section at the end. It has fun illustrations and kids may like it, but it was not my cup of tea.

I LOVE books about lesser-known, but super-important people. German born Emmy Noether was a gifted mathematician in a time when women were barely allowed to attend college. Her research was vital and she even helped Einstein with his Theory of Relativity. Of course, men took all the credit for her work. This book would make a nice companion to science units and to examine gender stereotypes and fairness. 

Currently Reading

Still Listening

Next Up

What Are You Reading Friends?

Monday, July 13, 2020

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 13, 2020

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Here are a few books I have been able to read over the last couple of weeks. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

An interesting close look at this pesky insect. 

While this book was interesting and I learned a bit of history that was unfamiliar to me, I found that it was very brief. 

A must-read nf book. 

An eye-opening look at far more than a water problem. 

This book is an important read for my fellow white educators. 

Another great middle grade book from Rebecca Stead.

Middle grade readers will want to travel along with Henry in this exciting story as he tries to demonstrate his independence. 

Currently Reading

Listening To...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Remote Learning Middle Grade Book Stack Giveaway!

Hi Friends, 
My goodness it has been a very long time since I have posted anything here on this dusty blog. 
I have lost track of how long we have been in remote learning mode, but it has been extended here in Maine for the remainder of the school year. Teachers and parents are all experiencing loss and disappointment and are working hard to to balance it all. 

My senior in high school and my 8th grader with special needs are both learning remotely at home and it is a challenge to keep everyone safe, engaged in their learning, socially and emotionally nurtured while also doing my literacy coaching job from home. That being said, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to keep working and connecting with teachers and kids. 

As we all continue to teach and learn remotely, while we are remaining physically distant, it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook. So I wanted to spread some book love. 
I am giving away the 10 middle grade books, pictured below, to one randomly-selected winner in hopes that they will be put into kids' hands. The books are best for students in grades 4-6. 
The winner will be selected on May 2. Enter using the Rafflecopter below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 23, 2019

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? September 23, 2019

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Here are a few books I have been able to read over the last couple of weeks. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads. 

by Pam Berkman
Dorothy Hearst
Illustrated by Claire Powell
Published by Margaret K McEldery Books
August 2019

Goodreads Summary:
Join Filigree, a five-pound Pomeranian, as he stows away on Paul Revere’s midnight ride in this first book of the At the Heels of History series, inspired by important events and told through the eyes, ears, and noses of dogs.
Filigree may be a small puff of a Pomeranian but he has a big, brave heart. As the Revere family dog, he’s ready to do his part to help the American colonists stand up to the British soldiers. But the other dogs, like Jove, Sam Adams’s Newfoundland, and even the Revere cat, Anvil, think Filigree is a joke. The Reveres’ daughter Frances is the only one who believes in him.

When Frances’s father, Paul Revere, leaves home on a secret mission, Filigree and Frances know they have to help, no matter how dangerous it might be. Will a pint-sized pup just be in the way, or can Filigree prove that even a very small dog can fight for freedom?
I love this time period and would definitely add this one to any 3-5 classroom or school library! There are more to come in this At the Heels of History series. 

by Ellen Javernick
Illustrated by Colleen Madden
Published by Two Lions 
August 2019
Goodreads Summary: What if everybody were more thoughtful before they judged someone?
If you see someone in a wheelchair, you might think he or she couldn’t compete in a race. But…you might be wrong. What if you see a child with no hair? Do you think she is embarrassed all the time? How about a kid who has a really hard time reading? Do you think that means he’s not smart? You might think so. But…you might be wrong.

With clear prose and lighthearted artwork, this companion book to the bestseller What If Everybody Did That? explores the preconceived notions we have about the world and encourages kids to be more thoughtful. 

This is the 3rd in the "What if Everybody..." series. The others are What if Everyone Did That? and What if Everyone Said That?

by Michael Engler, 
Illustrated by Joƫlle Tourlonias and Laura Watkinson
Amazon Crossing Kids
Sept. 2019
Goodreads Summary: Life is more fun when you’re a tiger like me!
A little boy—um, no, a tiger!—tells us all about what he gets up to on an ordinary day: how he wakes up in his tiger den, what he eats for breakfast at his feeding spot, and how little tigers feel when they are wide awake, hungry, thirsty, or in the mood for adventures. But at night, even the wildest of tigers is happy to curl up in bed with Tiger-Mom and Tiger-Dad and become a cuddly little tiger cub.

With warm illustrations and playful text, this delightful story first published in Germany shows just how sweet life can be for a little tiger!

by Lynne Kelly
Published by Feb. 2019 by Delacorte Press

Goodreads Summary: In the spirit of modern-day classics like Fish in a Tree and Counting by 7s comes the story of a deaf girl's connection to a whale whose song can't be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.
From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.
When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?
Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

What are you reading friends?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Teachers, I Feel You

The first week of school is done and we are ready to start again with week 2.  I was a classroom teacher for many years and I remember how tough the first week(s) can be. As an instructional coach during the first week of school, I visit classrooms and try to be helpful. I assist teachers with finding resources and pop into classrooms and help as the students learn new routines. I do some read alouds and book talks and answer lots of questions. Part of the role of a coach is to watch and listen carefully. Last week I saw so many beautiful moments in my schools as all of the adults in our buildings collectively supported students in the transition back to school that I wanted to write about them.

Teachers, I Feel You

To the teacher with the new student 
Who can not keep his hands to himself. 
You cheerfully say, 
"It looks like you could use more space, 
How would you like to use the table?" 
I feel your patience.

To the teacher who gently holds the hand 
Of an exhausted little guy as he sobs, 
"I miss my mom". 
I feel your kindness. 

To the teacher with that challenging class.
You read a book to them called, I Believe in You.
I listen as you talk about ways to support them.
I feel your devotion.  

To the teacher who dropped your own child at day care 
for the first time this morning.
You dry your tears and give your best self to your students. 
I feel your strength. 

To the teachers who walk their classes in lines. 
Saying, "I see walking feet." 
"I see students facing forward." 
I feel your optimism. 

To the teacher with the "resistant" student
Who refuses to come to circle.
"We simply can't do this without you." is all you say.
I feel your respect. 

To the nervous new teacher. 
Who greets a class of eager students for the first time
With a wide smile and knocking knees.
I feel your courage. 

To ALL the educators who work so hard for our students
Every day.
I feel your passion, your dedication, your hope and your exhaustion. 
I am with you.
I feel you.