Friday, April 24, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on weekends where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

This weekend I am writing my post early because I will be out celebrating too much to post. Last week a new person joined our family. My brother and his wife had a new baby girl. This will be my fourth niece and I get to meet her this weekend. I'm looking forward to meeting her and being with my mother, brother and other family members.

I am celebrating spring today too. We've had a little snow again this week, but today the sun is shining and the temps are back above 50. Today at our school we had a school wide celebration outside with music and dancing on the playground. It was a wonderful day for it.

Tennis is underway and I'm about to run out to watch another match. Our exchange student has been enjoying his time on the team. We only have about six more weeks with him before he heads back to South Korea. I enjoy having students come stay because we get to see our own lives through another perspective. I think we learn and grow every time someone comes to stay.

I was able to go to craft night yesterday. I wasn't able to work on the bracelet I had been making because the supplies weren't there, so I started a medallion (sort of like this). It's more complicated than the bracelet for sure and is one of the reasons I have an optometrist appointment next week. Those tiny beads and stitching are tricky when I'm looking over the top of my glasses and then back through them again. Bifocals may be in my near future.

Once again, I'm thankful that I work with fun people. Several of us spent time laughing together at lunch today.

I'm off to watch some tennis. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slice of Life - Gettting Ready for El día de los niños, El día de los libros

The Slice of Life Challenge was created by the people over at the blog Two Writing Teachers. The challenge is to write about some part of your day and share it each Tuesday then give feedback to at least three other bloggers.

Third, fourth and fifth grade students are helping to create papel picado to dress up the library for El día de los niños, El día de los libros (Children's Day, Book Day) next week. We'll be celebrating with our decorations, but also by reading bilingual books, international books, and books that celebrate both children and books. It's fun to do something a little messy in the library for a change though in our small space (less than the size of a typical classroom since were located in a hallway) it's a bit tricky. We have no tables so we used lap boards. Supplies are distributed across the floor in front of the chapter book shelves and on the cart that displays new books. It's more than a little chaotic, but to see and hear students chatting and creating in honor of books is fantastic.

Are you celebrating El día de los niños, El día de los libros? If so, what are some of the activities you'll offer? If not, consider it for this year or next. There are excellent resources on Pat Mora's website, the founder of Día. I met her at ALA Midwinter this year!! Here's a great interview with her about Día on the ALSC blog.

There are also wonderful resources available at the Día: Diversity in Action page. That's where I found the templates for the pastel papel picado above (the sun and book designs posted by my office door). The papel picado the fifth graders created on tissue paper was inspired by the book Making Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza. I reviewed that last week.

With our construction/remodel going on right now, we don't have space for a large celebration, but next year is the 20th anniversary. With our larger space, I am aiming for an expanded program next year to include families and even the community. I love any excuse to celebrate books and I especially enjoy Día because it also honors children and diversity.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week: 
Picture Books

My favorites of these were Magic Windows/Ventanas magicas (because I'm having a great time with papel picado), Wolfie the Bunny (because it's too funny), and My Diary from Here to There (because I enjoy memoirs and always love illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez. By the way, Mr. Schu had a fantastic interview with her this past Friday.

Middle Grade

I had a fantastic time reading Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. It is super funny. I reviewed it here.

Young Adult

The Firefly Letters was an interesting look at the roles of women in the 1800s. The roles and privileges were very different depending on class, race, and where a woman was born. Crazy Horse's Girlfriend was one I had been looking forward to after hearing Debbie Reese promote it. I really enjoyed the main character, Margaritte, and will be reviewing the book on Rich in Color later this week. Strange Fruit introduced me to many Black Americans unknown to me and seeing them in a graphic novel format made the stories even more interesting - less like a history textbook.

Adult Fiction

The Fishermen was an ARC that I picked up at ALA Midwinter. It was the only one I picked up that wasn't for school, my blog, or for Rich in Color. It was simply because it caught my eye. The author was there too, so it's signed. The main character is nine, but it is in no way a children's book. It was much more grim than I had anticipated. The writing had me right there with Benjamin and his family. Chigozie Obioma will be a writer to watch.

The Coming Week:
Would you believe that I'm still listening to the second Octavian Nothing book? I started it about a month ago. I have 4 more CDs left, but I have a long drive later this week so I will definitely finish. I started Purple Hibiscus and am enjoying that one. I will probably grab at least one more audio book for my road trip, and I have The Poet Slave of Cuba checked out right now. We will see what else jumps into my hands.

Reading Challenge Update
Goodreads - 135/520
#MustRead2015 - 19/53

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Title: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
Author: Kelly Jones
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC via publisher
Availability: May 12, 2015

Summary: Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse.... And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe. Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making.

Review: The title struck me as amusing before I even got to the text. The look in the top chicken's eye's on the cover also cracks me up. There was no way that I could ignore this book and I'm so glad I didn't. Sophie and her adventures had me smiling and giggling over and over even when dealing with serious things. Her first letter to her grandmother is a good example. Her abuela died recently  and Sophie writes, "I know you're dead, and I don't believe in zombies, so you don't need to write back or anything."

And those chickens! The chickens are hilarious and only become more so as you slowly learn how unusual they really are. There is a mystery unfolding throughout the book and I don't want to spoil it, but know that there are many laughs along the way. The humor is also embedded in the fun pictures. Katie Kath has added a lot through her playful illustrations. The expressions on the faces of the people and the chickens are fabulous.

This is a light-hearted and entertaining book, but Sophie doesn't only talk about the chickens in her letters. She mentions the chicken that uses The Force and other bizarre happenings involving superhero type powers, but she also discusses race, class, identity and fitting in. It's done in a matter of fact way and doesn't get teachy or preachy. Sophie is half Latina and looks like her Mexican American mother. She explains that some people assume that Sophie and her mother (who was born in the United States) are undocumented immigrants. Another time she writes, "People always think Mom and I are poor. They even did when we had some money, just because we're brown." This is not a case of a humorous story with a character who "just happens to be Latina." Her culture shapes her story and how it is told.

An extra bit of wonderfulness in the story is the recipe for migas. I love books that encourage me to make something new in the kitchen. *Update: I tried the migas tonight for dinner and ate way too much because they were seriously yummy.

Recommendation: Definitely get this as soon as it's available. You'll want to read Unusual Chickens  and share it widely. You may also end up grabbing The Hoboken Chicken Emergency since Sophie is a superfan and read it aloud to her chickens.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

This week has had plenty of ups and downs. The construction work at school this week was noisier than it had been for a while. This led to headaches and a general desire to get out of the building as soon as possible at the end of the day. To combat this stress, several of us took walks together during our lunch breaks. Fortunately, the weather was gorgeous this week. We finally really have spring. Many staff members also met after school on Friday in a teacher's backyard for conversation and snacks. It was a fantastic way to relax.

Another bright spot was that my third and fourth grade students are creating papel picado for Día de los niños using the designs in the resource guide. The fifth grade students will be trying some of the designs from Carmen Lomas Garzas book Making Magic Windows. We'll use one of the flower patterns and one with lizards.

Today I was able to go to Zumba class again. It was not fabulous for my back, but it was still a lot of fun. My husband and I were also able to go on a great hike to look out over Lake Winona and the Mississippi in the distance. It was a beautiful day and I always enjoy getting up to the top of the bluffs to see the water.

Last Saturday my exchange student and I made it to the powwow in Madison. It was cool to see the variety of dancing. We also had a wonderful walk by the lake and some yummy root beer floats. Strangely enough we got to see the engineering students creating the world's largest Rice Krispies Treat too. We stopped and visited with my son and he directed us to the world record breakers.

Though I was feeling behind on blogging Thursday, I did catch my breath and have made lists and plans. Things seem more achievable now.

There was much to celebrate and the celebrations outweigh the difficulties by a ton. Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catching My Breath

It's late Thursday night. Tuesday was the day meant for Slice of Life writing. Didn't happen. Wednesday was the day meant for blogging about a nonfiction picture book. Didn't happen. Today, a review could have happened, but didn't. A nap was taken instead. Dinner was made. Email was read and many responses were written, but still no post.

Do any of you bloggers have weeks like this? I had many intentions, but little action. I opened up my bullet journal tonight for the first time in a while and got back to writing my lists. This may get me back on track. If you have suggestions on how to keep up and stay motivated, let me know. In the meantime, I'll stop worrying about the yesterdays,

focus on my One Little Word,

and keep moving forward so I don't get all grumpy

like this guy.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week: 

I read and reviewed Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer. It's a great book, especially for educators, and it provides quality information about American Indians.

Another adult nonfiction title that I read was What It Is by Lynda Barry. The last book I read by her was about creating visual art and this one was about writing. It had some fantastic prompts and included pieces of writing that appeared to be memoir. They made for good mentor pieces.

I also read and reviewed Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World's Most Memorable Photographs, Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, and Making Magic Windows: Creating Papel Picado/Cut-Paper Art with Carmen Lomas Garza. They were all excellent nonfiction books. As I typed that I realized that most of my reading this week was nonfiction. Hmmm.

And here are some of the fiction books that I read. Mama and Papa Have a Store was so interesting to me because I had heard of Chinese immigrants to Spanish speaking countries only in the past year. That is a part of history that I didn't know much about. In this memoir picture book we see a family from Asia that is making a new life in Guatemala City. Snapshots from the Wedding really reminded me of Carmen Lomas Garza's Family Pictures. They are fun little slices of life. My Name is Gabito was a nice picture book biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

The Coming Week:

I was also still listening to Octavian Nothing (still a struggle) and reading The Fishermen which is so much more than I expected. I don't quite understand why Octavian Nothing is considered young adult especially when I am reading both of these at the same time. The main character of The Fishermen is only nine and the book is definitely for adults so it can't be simply that Octavian is a young person. Octavian seems to narrate in a very adult style so I am puzzled really especially when I find it so difficult to stay interested and the language is so formal. 

I started the graphic novel Strange Fruit Vol 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History today too. I just picked up Crazy Horse's Girlfriend yesterday and am excited to start that soon. I'll probably read a few picture books along the way also.

Reading Challenge Update
Goodreads - 125/520
#MustRead2015 - 15/53