Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo Begins Again

National Novel Writing Month Officially Begins! 
(in approx. 3 hrs. and 48 minutes)

I cannot quite believe that I am getting myself into this again, but here I go on another great writing adventure. I am hoping that the second time through is a tad easier, but who knows. It is likely just as difficult to write 50,000 words in a month the second time. Late nights, lots of tea, laughter, tears, whining, and much more interesting stuff is in our future. Yes, our future. My daughter has consented to join me again on this quest. Doing this with her makes it doubly fun and more memorable. I am looking forward to the challenge. Who is going to join me?

Here are some of the books I am using as mentortexts and some that I am using for research. This is going to take a serious amount of time. See you on the other side!

Happy Writing to All! And to All a Good Night!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

Past Week:
Newbery Challenge

It is hard to choose a favorite between these because they are all so different, survival, animal fantasy, and realistic fiction. Summer of the Swans moved me, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH entertained me, and Julie of the Wolves made me question. The questioning led me to this review at the website Alaska Native Knowledge Network. I wish that Jean Craighead George had done a little more consulting before publishing, but the writing itself was well done. There were some inaccuracies and though I am sure she felt she was honoring the indigenous people, I am not sure that it turned out that way.

Caldecott Challenge

I really, really, really, love Lon Po Po. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story is wonderful too. I love that the eldest daughter uses wisdom in this difficult situation rather than needing an outside source of rescue. Hey, Al is a bit creepy to me, though I enjoy the pictures. I also like the moral, but am saddened that they are still stuck in the same place with no escape in sight.

Picture Books

I read too many picture books to share them all, but these were two that I really enjoyed. Both show a unique culture and family. Saltypie (my favorite book of the week) is a piece of history from the author's own life. Tim Tingle is quickly becoming an author that I want to know more about. I am always excited to see literature that presents modern Native Americans in daily life. A Mango in the Hand was very fun and I think that it would work well as a read aloud and could be used for discussion about proverbs and maybe as a jumpstart for some writing. 


I loved reading this great poetry collection related to the life and works of Marc Chagall. Fun fact learned: The title of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof was inspired by one of his paintings. Cool.

Professional Development

I thoroughly enjoyed this challenging work. It prompts us to ask several questions when reading information such as: why was it written, whose perspective is presented, is it believable, does it match up with other sources? These are questions that I want my students to ask when they are looking at information online and when they are reading non-fiction texts of any kind. I want them to be thinkers and questioners, not just blind consumers of information. Their teachers need to model this in the classroom.

For the Coming Week: Now that one of my professional books is complete I will look to finish another, but I am not sure yet which one. I will begin reading Slave Dancer for the Newbery Challenge and also work on Laugh with the Moon and of course I will hit some picture books along the way. Since National Novel Writing Month AKA NaNoWriMo begins this week and I have a half-marathon next weekend, my reading may slow down, but it won't come to a complete halt. Have a great week of reading!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Skype Fun with Authors

I am so excited to have connected with a great professional learning network. Mr. Schu invited me to share on his blog about a Skype visit with Ame Dyckman. She visited with first graders at my school and we had such a fantastic time sharing with her. That visit and many more are part of the wild ride I've been on since Mr. Schu and Shannon Miller inspired me to start connecting with authors and illustrators. There are so many willing to visit with our classes if only we ask. Once I started, I just wanted to do more. Fortunately, Kate Messner provides a wonderful list of authors willing to Skype for free. That is where I have found several people for our classes. Twitter is another great resource. Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger and Mal and Chad author Stephen McCranie both offered some random visits that way and I am so glad we managed to get some of their open time-slots. They did a fantastic job with our students. If you haven't tried it yet, I dare you to jump in and see the magic that can happen!

Visit with author Linda Urban

Thursday, October 25, 2012


See this post to find out more about THIRSTday. Thanks LibraryFanatic and David Etkin!

Chai and a thought-provoking book = great evening

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

Past Week:

Newbery Challenge

This week was a good one for Newberys. I love, love, love, Claudia in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She is a girl with a plan - a fabulous plan. I remember going to the Los Angeles Museum of Art on a field trip after reading this book and just imagining how Claudia did it all. The High King was also pretty fun. It was a trip down memory lane as I thought back to my earlier reading of both this and The Mabinogion (Welsh legends) that Alexander used in writing this series. For more on this visit my previous post here. Sounder was a less pleasant read, but certainly was powerful. I just really have a hard time with those sad books. It has made me cry each time I have read it. I am also not sure how I feel about Armstrong and how he chose to write the book without names and from the sharecropper perspective. I am not sure that he had the best point of view for it, but really, I will have to think about that some more.

The McElderry Book of Mother Goose: Revered and Rare Rhymes was okay. I enjoy Mother Goose most of the time, but this particular collection didn't really catch my fancy. I am not entirely sure why, but maybe there just weren't enough of the ones that I love. Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems was a fun exploration of elephant facts. The poetry was nice, but not out of the ordinary, but I did like the combination of poetry with the non-fiction.

Middle Grade Novel
Three Times Lucky was highly recommended to me, but it was another book that didn't quite grip me. It took a long time for me to finally get past the feeling that the characters seemed unreal. I enjoyed the humor of Mo, but she just wasn't believable. She seemed too funny, too precocious, and the lines were just too snappy for me to settle in. Eventually, I just accepted the book as humor and moved on to the mystery. 

Picture Books
I re-visited Crossing Bok Chitto and still find the illustrations and the story very engrossing. This is a fantastic tale of friendship, bravery, and a bit of magical realism. Loved it. 

I also had fun reading Joseph and His Little Overcoat. The collage was very entertaining and the cutouts added a uniqueness to the book. The story was very cute. Of course, I had to wonder if the author of I Had a Favorite Dress had read this once upon a time and was inspired. They would be fun to pair together.

I almost forgot, I also read the newest Elephant and Piggie book, Let's Go For a Drive. This completely made me thing of John Schu and his road trip with his friends Donna and Ivan and all of the things they collected as they prepared to go. I had to wonder if he had read an ARC of this before writing about "Every Road Trip Needs..."

Still Reading
I am nearing the end of Lies My Teacher Told Me, but still have a ways to go with Other People's Children, and Courageous Conversations About Race. 

The Coming Week: Hopefully, I will finish up some of the books above. I have just started the next Newbery Summer of the Swans (another re-read). I have a few Caldecotts on hold at the library to pick up this week and I finally got Shana Burg's Laugh with the Moon today. It should be a good week. Happy reading!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The High King

It was fun to revisit Taran and Eilonwy in Prydain. I had forgotten how much I loved Gurgi with all of his crunching and munchings. Fflewddur Fflam and his twanging harp strings always brings a smile to my face. Alexander brought some wonderful characters to life. When I first read this series, I was in elementary school and didn't realize how much Alexander was borrowing from Welsh legend. When I read The Mabinogion in a graduate class, I recognized many of the characters' names and it took awhile to figure out where I had heard them before. Reading through The High King again, was a trip through many memories and was like attending a reunion.

If you want to get to know Lloyd Alexander a bit, there is a three part series of interviews on YouTube and the first one begins here.

At this point, I have read the first 48 Newbery books this year. Most of the ones that are left will be repeats for me. I look forward to meeting up with more old friends as the Newbery Challenge continues.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dot Day - Finally Posted!


We had a great time making Dot pictures this year using the iPads. It was an excellent opportunity to introduce/reintroduce safe and appropriate use of the iPads while having a fun creative experience. Thanks Peter Reynolds for your fantastic books The Dot and Ish!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

Past Week:

Picture Books

Of the picture books above from my list on Goodreads, my favorite this week by far was This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. I just cannot believe that he has managed to do it again. If you have read I Want My Hat Back, you may understand what I mean. I was not sure how he could top that one, but he has once again managed to make me laugh, think, and wonder. I love it!

The Moccasins comes in at second place. The story is told simply and the illustrations are also simple. The story is of a boy taken in by foster parents and given the gift of moccasins. It is a beautiful story of family love. This book was part of an order I got in from Oyate. The order also included these three cool board books below, but they aren't on Goodreads. All three are from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Head Start in Minnesota. The first two feature contemporary Native American children. niimiwin follows a boy and girl through preparations for and participation in Pow Wow. The pictures are fantastic and the text includes Ojibwe words along with the English. Boozhoo again has a simple text of Ojibwe words along with English as it shows children doing daily activities. Our Journey is a beautiful book teaching readers to greet and thank every part of creation from the north, south, east, and west. I am looking forward to reading more of the books that I got in this order. I am thankful that a friend from the Ho-Chunk Nation Youth and Learning Center came to visit and showed me some excellent books to purchase for our library.

Newbery Challenge

From my Goodreads review - Not a favorite. It is difficult to like the main character. It was an Anne of Green Gables type of plot, but again, the main character was not nearly as enjoyable so I didn't like it as much. I also did not like some beliefs that it taught like the idea that a woman is not fully developed until she has loved a man. Hmph.


From my Goodreads review - Maybe I am expecting too much, but I found this one a bit too simplistic. Picture book bios are a tricky thing with so little space. Lincoln is portrayed as a hero rather than a human who did some great things. Didn't he have ANY flaws?

For the Coming Week:
I plan to try and finish several books that I have been working on. Professional Development books take so much longer to read since I need to read a bit and then reflect before moving through the books. I am busy with Lies My Teacher Told Me, Other People's Children, Courageous Conversations About Race, and I am still kind of stumbling through the middle-grade novel Three Times Lucky. Lucky has been a bit of a challenge for me. I want to finish it, but somehow I haven't gotten into the story very well. If I don't finish soon, I will abandon it and move on to something else. I am also going to read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler this week. It is a treat to finally get to one of my all time favorite Newbery books. I hope you have a great week of reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

Past Week:
Picture Books

If I had to pick a favorite of the above books, it would have to be Black Dog. This is a story about a black dog startling a family. The scary thing is that the dog is getting larger and larger as the story progresses. I enjoyed it, but what really got me was the intricacy of the illustrations. There were so many things to catch my eye. I usually read so quickly that I miss a lot in the pictures, but these were just grabbing my attention. How to Catch a Star was very sweet as the young boy creatively tries many times to catch the star. The Three Ninja Pigs of course is a winner just by virtue of having ninja in the title. I know many youngsters at my school that want anything I can come up with that has even a remote connection to ninjas. Aside from that, I really liked the spunky sister that just keeps at her training and knows her stuff. I am not sure how I have missed Giraffes Can't Dance. It was another feel good book. The joy in that dance really made me smile and hope that readers will feel that they can be themselves. For Just One Day another sweet one. I love the creativity of it. It is just so fun to be something or someone else for awhile. All in all, I had a fun time with picture books this week.

Newbery Challenge

I had some problems with the depiction of the "happy slave." I was glad to see that balanced a bit later with another perspective, but it was still troubling. At least the story did not shy away from discussing some of the injustice inherent in slavery, but it somehow seemed a bit too little. The passages about art were interesting, but I feel that this book was really too slow. I can imagine that many students would label it as completely boring.

Cat Girl's Day Off kept me entertained throughout. Boredom never reared its ugly head. The main character, Natalie Ng, is funny and very quirky. Some of her phrases were just fabulous, like "poodle farts" (as a mild form of cursing) or even better "poodle farts on a stick." This was a light mystery with action and slightly bizarre things happening all over the place. 

Read for the Record

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad was the Read for the Record book this year. It is not really one of my favorites. I like that the Bug Squad plays outdoors and uses their imagination, but there isn't much of a plot. So, we paired it with a non-fiction and had a wonderful time learning about ladybugs. I thought The Life Cycle of a Ladybug had marvelous large pictures that made it perfect for reading to a whole group. The facts were interesting and the kids got to be a little grossed out sometimes. They loved making the face that a bird might make after chomping on a nasty tasting ladybug. 

For the Coming Week:
I will be starting Up a Road Slowly as part of the Newbery Challenge. I will try to finish several professional books that I have started recently: Courageous Conversations About Race, Other People's Children and Lies My Teacher Told Me. I am also mid way through Three Times Lucky. I may get to some others, but hopefully, I will at least finish up the ones I have started. Happy Reading!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Top Ten at Our LMC

Just checked the catalog to see what is popular right now and here are our top ten books. Tom Angleberger and Jeff Kinney both have three in the top ten. Wowzers!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


See this post to find out more about THIRSTday. Thanks LibraryFanatic and David Etkin!

I am loving Cat Girl's Day Off with a cup of chai.