Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2014


Today I am using my post for two 2014 challenge link ups, Nonfiction Picture Book on Kid Lit Frenzy and my end of year summary of my Must Read in 2014 list organized by Carrie Gelson from There's a Book for That, Linda Baie from Teacher Dance and Maria Selke from Maria's Melange.

Yesterday I posted my favorite fiction picture books of 2014. On this Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday, I'd like to share my favorite nonfiction picture books of the year. 

Here they are in no particular order. 

by H. Joseph Hopkins

by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

by Katherine Applegate
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

by Alan Robinowitz
Illustrated by Catia Chien

by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegadus
Illustrated by Evan Turk

by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

My Must Read in 2014 Reflection
Back in January of 2014 I joined this link up with several others as we tried to whittle down our TBR lists. I included several books I had been wanting and meaning to read for some time. Here is my original list. 
The good news is I have read ten books on my list. The bad news is I did not read four of them. Here are my still unread "must reads".

 I did not read as many books this year (only 170ish compared to 340 last year). I have started Kate Messner's Real Revision, but I will not finish it by tonight. The rest are still books I want to read....maybe this will be the year.

Happy New Year Friends!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Picture Books of 2014

It is very hard to believe that 2014 is coming to an end. I thought I would take some time to look back and share some of my favorites from the year. 

Today I will share my favorite fiction picture books. Visit again tomorrow to see my favorite nonfiction picture books and on New Year's Day for my favorite graphic novels and fiction novels of 2014. 

To learn more about each book, click on the title to go to the book's page on Goodreads. 

by Aaron Becker

by Patrick McDonnell

by Diane Fox
Illustrated by Christyan Fox

by Marla Frazee


by Lita Judge

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? December 29, 2014

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

So happy to have more time to read this vacation! 

Picture Books
by Madelyn Rosenberg
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Really cute for ages 4-8. Review to come.

by Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Nice take on a book about blended families for ages 5-9. 
Review to come.

by Jude Isabella
This book shows how one donation can change the lives of many people. Review on Wednesday.

Middle Grade
by Kate Messner
Loved this quick historical fiction chapter book. 

by Nancy J. Cavannaugh
I enjoyed this one as much as This Journal Belongs to Ratchet
For grades 5-8. 

by Ann M. Martin
I LOVED this book! Definitely a favorite of the year!
Grades 4-8.

Currently Reading
by Lisa Graff

What Are YOU Reading Friends? 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: The Red Bicycle-The Extraordinary Story on One Ordinary Bicycle

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

The Red Bicycle-The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
By Jude Isabella
Illustrated by Simon Shin
Published by Kids Can Press
Available March 2015
32 Pages
Review copy provided by Netgalley

Young Leo has finally saved enough money from mowing lawns to purchase the bicycle he has wanted for a long time. He names the gleaming red bicycle Big Red and the pair are inseparable. Leo rides Big Red everywhere and takes good care of it. Finally, the day comes where Leo is too big for Big Red and he wants to find the bike a good home where the owner will love and appreciate Big Red. During a visit to the bicycle shop, Leo leans about a program where used bicycles are donated to people who need them throughout Asia and Africa. This, Leo decides, is what he will do with his beloved bicycle. 
Big Red arrives in Africa and is spotted by a young girl named Alisetta. Of the more than 400 bicycles to arrive on the ship, Big Red is the bicycle Alisetta wants. Because of her new bicycle, Alisetta is able to help her parents with their sorghum crop by arriving early to scare off birds. She is also able to bring more products to market with her bicycle than by walking. This leads to more money and opportunities for her family including a chance for her siblings to attend school. The family saves enough money for another bicycle when an accident damages Big Red. 
Shortly after, a man named Boukary arrives at the market. He is looking for used bicycles to use at a medical clinic where he works. Bicycles allow clinic workers to travel to villages to administer medical treatment and to serve as ambulances using a stretcher-trailer attached to the back. Alisetta shows Big Red to Boukary and he thinks the bicycle can be fixed. He takes it to his clinic where he transforms Big Red, now faded with a many replaced parts, into an ambulance bicycle. 

Although this story is fictional, the book is based on the real possibilities provided by bicycle donation programs. What we in America often see as a fun, recreational way to travel can make a tremendous difference for a family with no transportation. Bicycles can be ridden to school and to markets. Baskets and other devices can make bicycles an effective way to transport many necessary items for sale or trade. This means more money for families and more opportunities for the family members, especially the children. I loved reading about this ripple effect. This is an important book to share with children. Without exposure to different cultures, children are led to believe that everyone lives like them. Showing them how others live can help build compassion and make them want to create change as world citizens.  I would use this book with grades 1-4. 

*World Bicycle Relief had a video that shows how a bicycle changed the life of a 12 year-old who used to have to walk 2.5 miles to and from school each day. 
*This video from Adventure Journal also shows how bicycles can change the world. 

Visit Jude Isabella's web site here ans Simone Shin's website here

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Slice of Life Post-Not in My Town

Each Tuesday the amazing bloggers at Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life Stories (SOLS). This is where bloggers link up to share anything they would like to share about what is happening in their lives. 

My twelve year-old daughter has always had difficulty with feeling safe. She checks to make sure the doors are locked before heading to bed and asks us about the possibility of intruders regularly. At school she worries when the school has lockdown drills as she does not know if they are real or if her teachers could keep her safe in the event of an emergency. She has heard about school shootings and asks lots of questions. Most of the time I am able to put her fears to rest by talking about how we live in a small, safe town in Maine. People look out for each other, we know each other. Bad stuff just doesn't happen here. This has always worked fairly well (although I do realize it was not the best strategy on my part) and even I naively believed that my kids were always safe in school....until last week. 

Last week our small town got a horrible wake up call. On Monday, I received a phone call I never thought I would get. A pre-recored message told me that a "credible and unspecified threat" has been made to the Windham School District and schools were being released early. The middle school (where my daughter attends) and high school would go home first and then the primary school (where my son attends and my husband is a secretary). As I listened, I was standing in my own classroom filled with 4th graders. My entire family could be in danger, but I had to hold it together. I had to fight the overwhelming urge to leave school and go grab my babies. I called my mother-in-law who is staying with us and she was already on her way to get Molly. It would be another hour or so before the Primary School would let out. I knew better than to call the school which, I correctly assumed, was busy fielding calls and preparing to get the students either to their buses or into the arms of the several hundred anxious parents in line at the school.  

The waiting was torturous. Every terrible scenario replayed in my mind. My husband works the front desk of his school. 
What if.... 
What if... 
What if...
Finally I heard from him and they were all safe at home, thank God! 

The school department worked tirelessly for three days to find out what happened while the schools remained closed. On Monday morning two district administrators both received an email stating that the sender had plans to attack a school and planned to do so on that day. The email was apparently specific and full of anger. During the investigation the school district and police kept parents and community members informed every step of the way. Finally on Wednesday afternoon it was announced that a suspect was in custody. A 16 year-old boy is accused of sending the emails. Evidence was found in his home that showed he could have carried out his threats. 

Although there was some relief that a suspect had been found, the town is in shock. How could this happen here? After the tragedy of Sandy Hook (whose anniversary was also last week) the sad and infuriating truth is that no town is completely safe. I thank God for the decisions made by the school department and the authorities and their dedication to making sure school would not resume until they found out where the threats had come from. I thank God for the teachers who kept the students calm even though I am sure they were frightened. I thank God that no one was hurt. 

Remarkably, my daughter has not asked many questions about her safety at school since this event. This experience has shown her that scary things can happen in her town and I hate that she knows that. However she saw how the teachers, school officials and police all kept her (and everyone) safe. Since I can no longer give her guarantees, I think she finds comfort in knowing she is surrounded by adults that would do anything for her well-being. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? December 1, 2014

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

I can't believe it is Monday again! The weeks are just flying by. I did manage to squeeze in some reading over the long weekend. 

Also, be sure to enter my giveaway of My Yellow Balloon, a book about grief and loss for young children. 

Click on the book covers to learn more about the books. 
I really enjoyed this quick read about supporting readers during independent reading. This would be great for any new teacher of anyone looking for some validation that they are supporting their readers. 

I read El Deafo by Cece Bell in one sitting which is very rare 
for me.  Great for grades 4-6. 

Currently Listening

Currently Reading

Recent posts

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stack-It-Up Sunday, November 30

On Sundays I like to share some of the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post.  Along with showing everyone how messy my house is, I like to share because each pile has its own story.

Here are this week's stacks.
This stack contains part of my recently funded Donors Choose Project!

 Here are more.

 This stack has some of my NCTE books signed by the authors!

 My behind-the-couch stack has some NCTE books and some from Donor Choose. I can't wait to bring these to school tomorrow!

My picture book pile is in my reading nook. I am giving away my copy of My Yellow Balloon here (giveaway runs until Dec. 4).

What Books are in YOUR Stacks Friends?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Celebrate This Week-NCTE 14

Every week, Ruth Ayres over at Discover. Play. Build. invites people to share celebrations from their week.  Please visit and consider linking up your own celebration. 

Thanks to Ruth for providing a platform for me to share my big and small celebrations. 

Ok, so yesterday I relfected on some of my learning from NCTE 14. It may be a bit late, but I would like to celebrate the awesomeness of the weekend. 

The Gaylord National Resort is beautiful! This picture was taken from the 8th floor overlooking the lower atrium. 
Mainers on the NCTE map!

Our Saturday session. 
I had the great fortune of presenting on a panel about fostering resiliency and empathy using literature. On the panel were my friends Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Leslie Connor, Jennifer Nielsen and Susan Dee. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing and presenting this session with these wonderful ladies! It was the highlight of my weekend. 
Yes, I was nervous to say the very least. I am not a "speaker" outside of my classroom so this was certainly way out of my comfort zone. It was good for me to prove to myself that I can present at NCTE and live to tell about it. 
I stalked and met Patrick Allen. I really enjoyed his book about conferring and I am glad I got to tell him so. 
I also got to meet Franki Sibberson. I felt like I already knew her since I read her work all the time. She is such a dedicated educator and a lovely person. It was great to meet in "real life". 
Me, Lesley Burnap, Melissa Guerette, Jason Lewis, Michele Knott

This picture was taken at the Scholastic dinner. Michele is a blogging buddy (Mrs. Knott's Book Nook). Lesley and Jason are online nerdy friends. I met all three of them in person for the first time at NCTE! Melissa is one of my nerdy Maine friends. This was our second NCTE together as roommates. She is super-nerdy in the best way. Please visit her amazing blog Educate, Empower, Inspire...Teach.

Here are a few pictures with authors.
 The incredible Laura Robb
 I gushed how much I loved This Journal Belongs to Ratchet to author Nancy Cavanaugh.
I was thrilled to get books signed by Raina Telgemeier! My students were beyond impressed. 
Ok, so I might have been eavesdropping on a conversation between Donalyn Miller and Laura Robb. Don't judge, you would have done the same thing. 

Although I didn't get any pictures, I was happy to be able to share meals with friends I met last year at NCTE including Mandy Robek, Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, Deb Frasier, Katie Keier, Pat Johnson and my Maine friend Mary Bellevance. 

I was thrilled to meet several other online friends, but I won't begin to mention them all as I will surely leave someone out. 

 A little fun before a bookish brunch for Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This sculpture is called The Awakening. Part of it is trying to grab my head. Photo credits to Jillian Heise. 
 Penguin Books hosted a brunch to celebrate my friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt's amazing success with her first book, One for the Murphys and the upcoming Fish in a Tree (to be released in Feb. 2015 and a must read, trust me). 
Nancy Paulsen (left) and Lynda discuss how Fish in a Tree was born. Lynda describes it as a "love letter to Mr. Daniels", her 6th grade teacher. Not a dry eye in the house.
This is my best nerdy friend Susan Dee. It is because of her friendship that I was able to present with the amazing panel of authors. She is the BEST conference partner ever and the truest friend anyone could have! We have had many nerdy adventures together and I look forward to so many more. 

So that's a wrap. I will continue to relive my nerdy NCTE experience. Experiences like this keep me motivated and renewed. I need to find a way to make the feeling last throughout the year.