Monday, June 30, 2014

My Must Read in 2014 July Update

Back in January I decided to join fellow blogger 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. Our Must Read lists consist of books we want to make sure we read` this year. In my case the list is a combination of books I have been meaning to read and books I don't want to miss. 

Here is my update.

I am sorry to report that I have not read any more books on the list. I still have the following books to finish. 

I do still want to read them, but I have just been reading other things. Hoping to get back on track with reading these "must reads". 
Click here to see the original list. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You reading?-June 31, 2014

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

Thank you to my friend Susan Dee for hooking me up with these two picture books last week. 
by Nina Laden
Illustrated by Renata Lewska
An adorable book about memories. Does a feather remember it was once a bird? Does a letter remember it was once a word? Many opportunities to stop and discuss. Good for Grades K-3.

by Alan Rabinowitz
Illustrated by Catia Chien
This non-fiction picture book was so inspiring. It is the true story of Alan Rabinowitz, a boy who struggles with stuttering. Will review further on Wednesday.

by R.J. Palacio
I actually finished this a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to include it in my post. My students and I enjoyed reading this addition to Wonder. I have to admit, I expected to understand and like Julian more while reading it, but I did not (well not a lot anyway). It does have a nice ending. 

Currently Reading

This is a re-read for the Southern Maine Writing Project. Enjoying it again!

Currently Listening

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrate This Week-June 28, 2014

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. 

My Family is All Here
You know it's summer when my 18 year-old step-daughter and my mother-in-law arrive. My step-daughter stays with us until the beginning of August and my mother-in-law (Laney) stays for much of the summer as well. The house if full, it's noisy and you have to get in line to shower, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

For the last three days I have been in a writing workshop for The Southern Maine Writing Project's Summer Institute. When I signed up, I thought it was a good idea. I'd get to write and learn from others uninterrupted. On Monday morning as I got up and ready to leave the house.  It was a warm, sunny day I began to think that signing up for a class in the summer wasn't such a great idea. I was wrong. The three days we have had so far have been terrific. I have vacated my comfort zone several times in the past days as I write and share with my new friends. The class is filled with such talented writers. I love listening to their writing and furiously write down amazing words and phrases they use. I am learning a great deal about myself as a writer and learner and I'm LOVING the writing time. We have four more days next week. I plan on writing a recap of the week and my learnings next Saturday. 

A Celebration Dinner
Last night we went out to dinner with the whole family to celebrate the successful completion of another school year. As many of you know, my eight year-old son has autism. Taking him out to eat at a "sit down" restaurant is not usually easy.  Last night was no exception. To make a long story short, TJ did not want to sit where we had planned to sit (downstairs away from everyone). He wanted to be in the middle of the action and where he could look at all the interesting decor they have on the walls. After some whining and then escalating to hitting me, the nice people at Buck's Naked BBQ rearranged tables upstairs and moved our party of eight to where he was happy. There were also nice customers who didn't seem to mind that he would stand up and get close to their table to look at something on the wall. I'd like to celebrate this establishment, its waitstaff and customers for their compassion. We had a lovely time. 

What Are YOU Celebrating Friends?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Franklin School Friends Series by Claudia Mills

by Claudia Mills                              
Pictures by Robb Shepperson       
Published 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)                    
128 Pages                         
Genre: Realistic Fiction                   
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Kelsey Kline is the best reader in the third grade--well, maybe tied for best with know-it-all Simon Ellis. When the principal Mr. Boone announces  a school-wide reading contest, complete with a pizza party for the winning class and a special certificate for the top readers in each grade, she knows she's just the person to lead Mrs. Molina's third graders to victory. But how can they win when her classmate Cody Harmon doesn't want to read anything, and even Kelsey's best friends Annika and Izzy don't live up to her expectations? And could Simon possibly be reading all of those books that he claims he is, or is he lying to steal Kelsey's rightful spot at the top? 

My Thoughts
I really like the three friends (Kelsey, Annika and Izzy). They each have their own strengths and talents and balance each other well. Kelsey is determined to win the individual reading contest and help her classroom win first place. Throughout the book she tries to get Cody to read in order to boost the classroom total. At first she is annoyed by his reluctance. Then as she gets to know him her feelings change. He begins to trust her and starts reading. To me, this is one of the most important parts of the book. It all ties up nicely at the end and there are some great life lessons emphasized. 

Annikka Riz, Math Whiz
by Claudia Mills
Pictures by Robb Shepperson
Published May 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 
128 Pages                         
Genre: Realistic Fiction                   
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Annika Riz loves math more than anything. She's trying to teach her dog, Prime, to count. She's determined to beat fellow math whiz Simon Ellis in a Sudoku contest at the public library. She even sleeps under number-patterned sheets. But Annika's best friends Kelsey and Izzy think math is boring. All they care about is the upcoming school carnival: their principal is going to be dunked in a dunking tank and their class is going to have a booth selling home-baked cookies. But then disaster foils the friends' cookie-baking plans. Can math save the day?

My Thoughts
This most recent installment in the series features Annika in the forefront. I enjoyed seeing the increased interaction among the three friends. This book also contains many areas where math is used in "real world" situations. The baking mistakes are very entertaining as the girls learn first hand how important it can be to follow a recipe's measurements carefully. Since they have no cookies to donate to the school carnival, they decide to sell lemonade. Math comes into play again as the girls figure out how much they need to charge for the lemonade in order to make a profit. I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next. 

I would recommend this series especially for grades 3-4 although some second graders will likely be able to enjoy it alone or as a read aloud. Although on the surface the books seem to be centered around a competition, they turn out to be about so much more as the stories develop. There are themes of teamwork, dedication, differences, learning from mistakes, jealousy, acceptance and, or course, friendship. 

Claudia Mills has provided a curriculum guide to use with this series on her website. It contains discussion questions and many other curriculum connections complete with CCSS alignment. 

The next book, Izzy Barr, Running Star is set to be released in April 2015. 

Visit her website to learn more about Claudia Mills' books. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Just As Good: How Larry Doby Changed America's Game

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

by Chris Crowe
Illustrated by Mike Benny
Published 2012 by Candlewick
32 Pages
Nonfiction Picture Book
Obtained from public library

Most Americans have heard of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the baseball color barrier in 1947. But have you heard of Larry Doby? Well, I hadn't until I read this book. Some say he is an underappreciated pioneer in baseball. 
Larry Doby played for the Cleveland Indians the year after Robinson entered Major League Baseball. That year the Indians faced the Boston Braves in the World Series. 

My Thoughts
This books is described as a tribute to Doby and I would call it just that. It has some biographical information, but is not a biography of Doby's life. Doby's impact on baseball, and America, is seen through the eyes of Homer and his father as they follow their favorite team in the World Series on the radio. The story builds to a climax as Homer narrates the action at game four. 
This book could be used in many ways. It would be a great companion to books about Jackie Robinson or in discussing civil rights. It could be used to show the time period (Late 1940's). It is also a story of hope. Homer and his father have a lot riding on Doby's success, beyond the World Series. 
I would recommend this book for grades 1-4. 

Here is a short video about Larry Doby's legacy

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?-June 23, 2014

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

It's summer so I am happy to have 
been able to read a bit more than usual.
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This is a wonderful collection of short, seasonal poems. I love Melissa Sweet's illustrations. Great for your poetry collection. 
Grades 1-4

Things that Float and Things that Don't
by David A. Adler
A nice nonfiction book for getting into the science of why some things float and others sink. 
Grades 1-3

by Claudia Mills
Middle grade fiction
Grades 3-4
Review to come.

by Donald Graves
This books was required reading for a course I am taking this summer and I am glad it was. Graves tells it like it is and gives us some alternative ideas to standardized testing. 

Finished Listening to....
by Stephen King
I loved listening to this book. It is also a book I read for my course and I loved it. King's narration is just as I imagine he would talk, complete with colorful vulgarity. A must-read for any adult writer. 

by Dan Krokos
I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but I enjoyed this book very much. 
Grades 5-8 

As of this moment I have not decided what to read next from my big pile of summer reading. That's ok, it's summer!

What are YOU reading friends?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate This Week-June 21, 2014

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. 

As I write this, I am sitting here in my glider, feet up with a hot cup of coffee. It is Saturday, but right now all days feel like Saturday because IT'S SUMMER!! 

I'm sure I join many teachers in celebrating the start of summer vacation here in New England. The weather has been beautiful for the last 3 days. It's chilly in the morning (think 40's) and climbs to the seventies with a nice breeze. This may not sound like summer where you live, but believe me, in Maine we'll take it. 

I don't actually consider summer to be a vacation. Sure, I don't go to school every day, but I work hard in the summer. I change from a teacher-mom and a stay-at-home mom and that is a tough job. With a visiting grandmother, an 18 year-old step-daughter, a 12 year-old and an 8 year-old, we are pretty busy. Preparing meals, packing, delivering kids to activities, and traveling together is a lot of work and I would not have it any other way. I have missed my kids. They are growing so fast and I look forward to connecting with them more this summer. 

I wrote a long post of reasons why I love summer, but I deleted it. I decided it might be fun to write a "top ten" list instead. 

10. An extra cup of unhurried morning coffee.
9.  Being able to wear sandals all the time.
8.  More writing time (Teachers Write).
7.  Connecting with friends.
6.  No dressing up (and many days, no make-up).
5.  Having a full, noisy house.
4.  Nana's pool.
3.  SUN!
2.  Reading time (#bookday)
1.  Extra snuggles, laughs, stories and play time with my family! 

As summer officially starts, what are YOU celebrating?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-June 11, 2014

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

Oh my word, it has been at least a month since I have posted and linked up a nonfiction picture book. Now that there is a week of school left, I am beginning to see a few streams of light at the end of the tunnel. 

by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Published 2014 by Charlesbridge
32 pages
Nonfiction Picture Book

Summary from Goodreads
Young naturalists meet sixteen birds in this elegant introduction to the many uses of feathers. A concise main text highlights how feathers are not just for flying. More curious readers are invited to explore informative sidebars, which underscore specific ways each bird uses its feathers for a variety of practical purposes. A scrapbook design showcases life-size feather illustrations.

My Thoughts
Melissa Stewart has written over 150 books for children! She is a nonfiction master who does her research. One thing about this nonfiction picture book that is different from many other animal books is that Melissa Stewart and Sarah Brannen show how each of the different types of feathers is similar to something children they can relate to. For example, "Feathers can shade out the sun like an umbrella" or "Feathers can soak up water like a sponge". Then the illustrations and information clarify the similarities. I feel this connection would be very engaging for young readers and help them understand birds when they see them in their natural habitats. Stewart has certainly done her research here and Brannen's illustrations are incredibly life-like.

Use this book...
as part of an animal unit.
to practice nonfiction reading.
to compare and contrast.
as a mentor text for using similes in writing.

Teachers, grab Melissa Stewart's Teacher's Guide for curriculum connections and activity ideas. She also has a video about how she used similes in this book. 
Her whole website is amazing. Click here to visit. 

Companion Texts
Click on the cover to learn more about these books.

Other Resources

Sunday, June 8, 2014

It's Monday What Are You Reading?-June 9, 2014

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

Here is my reading from last week. 
A Funny Little Bird
by Jennifer Yerkes
A unique picture book with an "accept yourself" theme. 
For Pre-K-2

A Perfect Day for Digging
by Cari Best
Illustrated by Christine Davenier
This book reminds us of the simple pleasure of digging in the dirt. Fun for Pre-K-2.

Feathers: Not Just For Flying
by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Excellent nonfiction picture book. Review coming on Wed. 
Good for K-4.

Still Reading

And Listening To...

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Stack-It-Up Sunday-June 8, 2014

I love for Sundays to be lazy days focused on home and family so I don't normally do a big post. However, I like to share the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post. I'm sure you have stacks of books piled around and as I like to say...
Each pile has its own story.

These two stacks are from our library visit yesterday. Molly was excited about the Maximum Ride graphic novel. 

These are on the kitchen counter. I got Outside the Box from the library and my librarian insisted I read Sea Legs. How could I refuse? 

This is TJ's stack of current favorites. 

These stacks are a mixture of library books that need to be returned, books that I want to cover and summer reading.
What's the story behind your stacks?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrate This Week-June 7, 2014

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. 

I have been away from regular blogging for about a month now. I am increasingly unable to balance the end-of-the-year-craziness at school with my own children's extracurricular activities and blogging, so something had to give. I am hoping to get back in a blogging groove soon. 

I hope you all have many things to celebrate from this week. Here are a few of mine from this and recent weeks. 

A Nerdy Announcement
I am not sure I have officially announced it yet, but a few weeks ago I learned that a proposal I submitted to NCTE, on behalf of my panel, was accepted! We will be presenting at NCTE this fall. I am still pinching myself and get nauseous just thinking about it. I get to present with my dear friend, Susan Dee and amazing authors Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Jennifer Neilsen and Leslie Connor! I KNOW RIGHT?!! Being able to work together with these incredible ladies whom I respect and admire is just thrilling to say the very least. Our session focuses on using literature from K-middle school to foster the development of resiliency and empathy in children. I am beyond excited!

It's About Time
Here in Maine it was a terribly long and exceptionally cold winter. Even though there are still mornings when we kick on the pellet stove, it seems that spring is finally here. Yes, I know it is almost summer, but Maine doesn't seem to realize that. The trees finally have leaves and there are flowers popping up in my garden. My family keeps a small vegetable garden plot at our town's community garden due to our yard's lack of full sun. We were able to put the seeds and seedlings in the ground and some are starting to peek out of the ground. 

Teamwork and Togetherness
Although we have a week and a half to go, things are in "wrap-up" mode at school. Yesterday was our 4th grade field day. This is an event the students and I look forward to all year. It was such a nice day to just be silly and fun with them and to encourage and congratulate each other. My voice is hoarse today from screaming so loudly during the tug-of-war. I love watching them together as they have become a tight-knit group who look out for one another. In the afternoon the students (and teachers) are so tired that all we can really manage to do is to watch a movie. We watched Disney's Frozen. Let me tell you that you have not lived until you have heard ten year-old boys belt out "Let it Go". 

Just Too Sweet
Lastly, I celebrate this special reading moment. I posted this video on Facebook earlier this week. My eight year old son, TJ, has autism and he loves certain books. He has a few he loves to read, but he seldom reads to anyone. My husband filmed TJ reading one of his favorite books, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. You can't make out many words, but I think you get the gist. I am so glad that we have technology to capture sweet moments like this. 

What Are YOU Celebrating This Week?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Win a Kindle Fire HDX-June Giveaway

Enter to win 1 of 2 great prizes. Winner’s choice of a Kindle Fire HDX or $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 Paypal Cash! The first prize is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to bloggers who post about this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter the 2nd giveaway in the rafflecopter.
June Kindle Fire  
Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)
  Or $229 Gift Card (International)
  Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)
  Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Giveaway here:   Giveaway Details 1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7" HDX (US Only - $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International). There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7", $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash. Ends 7/1/14 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 and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway