Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Blast- Mooncalf by Linda Zern-$50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Mooncalf by Linda Zern
Over Olympia and Leah’s heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies.
But on Miss Brinker’s school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn’t. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.
Olympia’s father works other men’s orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah’s father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.
At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.

Praise for Mooncalf
“One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it’s difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book.  Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word–each adjective, verb, and noun.  Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded.  Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it.  And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don’t go away once you’ve finished the book.  They stick with you.  It’s hard to forget Mooncalf.”"  ~ The Thousander Club

“I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it.” ~Lacey Smith

Author Linda Zern
Linda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck.
She wrote her first children’s chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer’s Digest called “the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing.”
Florida Publisher’s Association was kind enough to award her little book the President’s Book Award for best children’s book of 2005.
Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at
Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world.
The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.

BookBlast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 2/28/14
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Sharing an Idea-Don't Underestimate the Power of Conversation

"It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought." Agnes Repplier

In our classroom we use conversation all the time, in large groups, small groups and in pairs. This week we used conversation to help organize our thoughts as we started our fiction writing unit.  
We used the somebody, wanted, but, so, then fiction framework. We have used it with summarizing fiction and this time we used it to organize the students' writing.  

For homework this week, students were asked to have conversations with their families about their story ideas. In school they had time dedicated to having conversations with each other about what will happen in their stories. They were encouraged to ask questions and offer their thoughts about each other's ideas. 

They talk to each other all the time (often when the timing is not great) but when they are given permission to have a conversation, suddenly they have nothing to say. It took a while to get the conversations flowing. Soon they wanted to tell anyone that would listen about their ideas. They were also asking great questions that made each other think. 

When the time came to put the stories in writing, they were so much more prepared and couldn't wait to get started. 

Using conversation effectively takes a lot of time and practice. Below are two great resources for using conversation in the classroom. 
Responsive Classroom-Teaching Children How to Converse
Why Talk is Important in the Classroom

How do you use conversation in your classroom? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday- The Animal Book

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

The Animal Book
by Steve Jenkins
Published 2013 
HMH Books for Young Readers
Hardcover 208 pages
Disclosure: Copy obtained from library

I have seen many people talking about this book over the last several months, but I have not really been interested in reading it. It seemed to me like it was another "animal encyclopedia" and I thought it would be boring.  I don't normally love reading nonfiction and I hardly ever read them in their entirety.  After I saw another mention of The Animal Book last week on a friend's blog, I decided just to give it a glance.  I ended up reading it cover to cover.  

The Animal book is like "one-stop shopping" for animal information. Inside, the reader will find information on animal families, reproduction, adaptations, lifespan, Darwin's theories, predators, prey and a ton more! To top it all off, Jenkins' signature illustrations add more information and support the text beautifully. 

I learned a lot, but here are a few of my favorite facts.  
  • The tailorbird used her beak, plant fibers or spider web silk to sew a leaf closed after laying her eggs in it. 
  • There are more species of insects than all of the other species combined. 
  • A baby blue whale can gain 200 pounds in a day. 
  • Peregine falcons practice "stooping" or attacking prey by flying to it from above, with their siblings, pulling up at the last minute to avoid hurting each other. 
 Of course there are also plenty of gross animal facts that will delight young readers. A glossary, extra info section and lots of charts and graphs help add to the information. 

Steve Jenkins has been informing young (and not-so-young) readers for years. Click here to visit his website. I had fun just moving the curser over the animals on the home page, but the rest of the website is nice also.   

Watch this video where Steve Jenkins 
talks about creating his book. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Slice of Life- Changing Plans

Each Tuesday Ruth and Stacey 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. 

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” Allen Saunders

Some days things just don't go as planned.  I guess as a parent and a teacher, MOST days don't go as planned. 

I rarely bring home much schoolwork. Not because I get it all done at school, but because of family needs, I am just never able to get it done at home. After helping with dinner, homework, play time and bed, I am just too wiped to focus on schoolwork at night. But last weekend I did bring home a big stack of work to do.  My students just finished writing pieces and I needed to read them and score them using our district rubric. Although I had 46 stories to look at, I was excited to read them and give some written feedback.  I knew it would take me all weekend, but it needed to get done. 

Then my plans changed. My poor son, TJ, became ill in the early morning hours of Saturday. If you visit my blog regularly, you probably have heard me talk about him.  He is seven years old and he has autism. Thankfully, he rarely gets sick. He woke up and early Saturday morning and was sick to his tummy. Since I cannot explain to him what is happening, and he can't tell me what he is feeling, it is especially heartbreaking when he is sick. 

To say that he is a "Mama's boy" is an understatement and is even more true when he doesn't feel well. All day he just wanted me to sit with him and snuggle on the couch. Normally he is a very active boy and rarely sits still, but on this day he stayed put. While I would never, ever wish him to be sick, I have to say sitting with him all day was very special. I had to slow down and just be with him. We watched videos and movies on his ipad, I read and he napped. Thankfully he was feeling better the next day. 

The schoolwork sat untouched. I could not move from the couch for more than a minute without him whining for me and I didn't want to. I was where I needed to be.  
This may be a bit deep here, but I think the universe takes over and reminds us of what is important sometimes and forces us to slow down. 

When was the last time YOU had to slow down? What did you learn?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-January 27, 2014

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

The fun part of reading Monday posts is that you get great book recs.  Almost every book on my list came from a blogging buddy. Thanks for sharing friends. 
Here are the books I read or finished last week

Picture Books
by Emily Kate Moon
A-DOR-A-BLE book about a little girl who lives a 
wonderfully simple life with her grandfather. 

by Pat Zietlow Miller
Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Sophie finds a squash, draws a face on it and keeps it like a baby doll. People tell her that the squash will rot. She doesn't believe them until the squash gets buried just before winter.
 Great book for plant life cycles also. 

by Nicholas Oldland
These animals are friends, but they just can't agree and work together on their canoe trip.  
This book would be good to share with young kids to discuss   teamwork.

Picture Books-Nonfiction
by Jeanette Winter
I enjoyed reading this simple biography of Jane Goodall.  
It would especially appeal to younger readers 
with simple text and lots of pictures. 

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest--and Most Surprising--Animals on Earth
by Steve Jenkins
I can't believe I had avoided reading this book because I thought it would be boring.  I will be sharing more about it on Wednesday. 

Professional Book
by Ruth Ayres and Chris Overman
I really needed to read this book. I needed a reminder about the importance of celebration. I would highly recommend this book!

Currently Reading
by Jennifer Neilsen

What Are You Reading Friends? 

Recent Posts:

My Must Read in 2014 List

Hello nerdy friends. If you are anything like me, you have a towering and ever-growing list of books you always "plan to" read, but never quite get to. 

That's why I will be joining my friends Carrie Gelson from There's a Book for That, Linda Baie from Teacher Dance and Maria Selke from Maria's Melange for the Must read in 2014 Challenge. 

Will you join me?

All you have to do is make a list of books you keep meaning to read and decide that this is the year it will happen. Your list can be as long or short as you like. 
I decided to make mine attainable.  It is a combination of new books I want to read and books that have been on my list for a while. 

So, here they are in no particular order.  


I made this list at the beginning of the month and have already started picking away at it. I have finished Duke and Celebrating Writers and I am currently reading Shadow Throne!

Visit There's a Book for That to see other Must Read in 2014 lists. 

What books would be on your list? 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Celebrating Piles of Books!

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. 

" you think.....maybe we can do something about the stacks of books?" my sweet husband asks, tentatively.  "Like maybe put them in one place?" he suggests. 

Don't get me wrong, my husband is incredibly supportive of my reading habits, my book purchasing addiction and all of my nerdy ventures. His comments were directed toward my book piles. I didn't think it was that bad.  Sure, there are a few books on the kitchen counter, and maybe some down on the big desk that holds everything, but that's about it. Oh, and those by my bed, but who doesn't have a stack by their bed? 
So I decided to take a look around the house to see where there might be more piles. I guess he was right, there really are piles everywhere. 

 Yep, two piles on the counter.  We pile lots of things there. 

The bedside nightstand
The bedside floor

There were NO piles on the desk, but there was one 
on the floor by the desk..... 
and in a basket by the desk.
That had to be all, right?

Molly's floor
On Molly's bookcase

Behind the couch next to TJ's inflatable planets. 
You are a true book nerd if you noticed the Scholastic box underneath.  Yes, it is filled with books from the December warehouse sale. 

On a pile of clean clothes, not yet put away, don't judge. 

I thought I was done when I spied a stack hiding on a chair. 

I guess I really needed to think about this. Do these piles mean that I am just a slob? Maybe a little.  I have since consolidated the piles, moved some and brought some to school.  
After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I love my piles, love, love LOVE 'em. They are like disorganized, little monuments constantly reminding me of my reading life.  I consider them to be artwork sprinkled around my home. Each is unique and reminds me of time in my life, an event, story or author.  Simply put, they make me happy.  

How do you "organize" your reading life? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sharing an Idea- Teaching About Silent Letters

My 4th grade curriculum map tells me that I must teach about spelling words with silent letters. Yes, we do this all the time in our writing since silent letters are everywhere, but I wanted to do a couple of more direct lessons.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time and I wanted to keep it text-based as much as possible.  I also thought it might be a good way to touch upon some other skills such as predicting and summarizing. 

As we do with many skills and concepts, we started with a mentor text. 

After brainstorming a few words with silent letters, I read the first half of Silent Letters, Loud and Clear. In this book the children in the classroom complain about how difficult spelling can be because of silent letters. So they write an email to the editor of the newspaper to complain.  The silent letters' feelings are hurt and they decide to leave the email before the student presses send. 

I stopped halfway through and to asked the students to make some predictions about what might happen next. They quickly jotted these down on their white boards then discuss their thoughts.  Most of them predicted that the email would not make sense.

The next day we finished the story (it also contains a lot of idioms and other figurative language so we discussed those). 
Then we used the "somebody, wanted, but, so, then" framework for summarizing fiction, again using our whiteboards. 
On the third and final day, the students took the silent letters out of a message I had written to them. They were surprised by how many silent letters there were.   

Lastly, the students had some fun writing short messages, leaving out the silent letters, and showing them to each other. It was fun to watch them try to read each other's writing and laughing about the misspellings. 

We ended with a quick reflection.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday- Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

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

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey
by Loree Griffin Burns
Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Published January 1, 2014
Millbrook Press
32 Pages
Digital copy obtained through

As the title says, this is not your typical butterfly story. This book describes how a butterfly "farm" in Costa Rica grows butterflies for museums. Through gorgeous photographs and descriptive text, Handle with Care takes you from egg to butterfly and all the stages in between.  Then you get to see how the "pupa" are packaged and shipped all over the world. 

I really enjoyed this book for several reasons.  First, the pictures by Ellen Harasimowicz are absolutely amazing, big, clear and colorful. Then, the book is very different from any other butterfly life cycle text I have seen. I loved being able to see the inner workings of the farm.  

Handle with Care would make a great informational text to use with younger students in grades 3-4. There is a ton of scientific information, vocabulary and text features to support the text.  In the back of the book there are facts about insects and their life cycles, vocabulary a glossary and suggestions for further reading.

This is a wonderful author/photographer team!

Loree Griffin Burns has written several science texts.  Please visit her website for more information.

Please visit Ellen Harasimowicz's website to see more of her beautiful photography.