Monday, April 4, 2022

Spring is Finally (maybe) Here

The weather swings back and forth between freezing, cold, and warm, snow, sleet, and rain during March and even into April here in Wisconsin. But things are finally starting to level out just a bit. It has me thinking about our school gardens. Want to learn about our biofilter? These students can tell you all about it. 


You might be wondering why the library was involved with the biofilters. A few years ago, the fifth grade students and I did some research and had a landscape architect come work with us and we wrote a grant to improve the gardens. You can find out more about some of our lessons and activities in this video.


We also got a grant and community partners to help us install an excellent sign that helps teach others about our gardens and about the fact that our school is on the ancestral land of the Ho-Chunk people. To read an article and see more photos, visit this link.

Photo with teacher standing and reading a book to students who are sitting on the ground in front of the garden. A large informational sign is to the left of the teacher. There is an article below the photo in the screen shot. Click the link to get to the page with the article.

We also learned a lot about the Onalaska area by watching portions of a very informative documentary called Decoding the Driftless. 

Trailer for Decoding the Driftless documentary film from Tim Jacobson on Vimeo.

To learn even more about what we do outside, visit our Outdoor Learning page. 

Happy Spring!


Friday, April 1, 2022

Book Review: Stacey Abrams (Level 2)

Book cover features a photo of Stacey Abrams standing behind several media microphones. She has a smile on her face and is holding up one hand and pointing up.

Title:
Stacey Abrams (Level 2)

Author: Melissa H. Mwai

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Pages: 32

Review copy: Final copy via publisher

Availability: On shelves now

Publisher's summary: Learn about the voting rights advocate and politician Stacey Abrams and her groundbreaking achievements in this appealing Level 2 reader. Young readers will find out about Abram’s childhood and her early career as a city attorney and as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. The reader also explores her run in Georgia as the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor, and how losing that race inspired her to devote her life to making elections and the voting process more equitable for everyone. The level 2 text provides accessible, yet wide-ranging information for independent readers. Explore Abrams’s life, achievements, and the challenges she faced along the way to leading the fight against voter suppression and becoming a champion for change.

My thoughts: One of the challenges for teachers is finding quality biographies at a wide variety of reading levels. When teaching about biographies and nonfiction text features, it is extremely helpful to have resources for readers of all skill levels. I was excited to find out about this series. As one would expect, the visuals are eye-catching and support the text well. Information is presented in a nice mix of formats and is engaging. Since it is presented for developing readers, the biography is not extremely extensive, but does provide basic information about her life in addition to a lot of interesting details or "cool facts" about her life.

The author provides context for some of the things that have happened in her life and connects historical events to current events. There is also a quiz and visual glossary included at the end.

Recommendation: This is a helpful addition to any biography collection, but particularly for any set of resources serving young readers. I will be adding this to our school library and look forward to seeing more of this series.

Monday, January 24, 2022

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you want to see more of my reading, visit my Goodreads shelves here

Past Two Week's Reading: 
The cover of the three books in the paragraphs below.

I have been spending a lot of time studying Korean and Spanish which has left me with much less reading time. But I did finish listening to the YA book Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World. Like the first book, the reader is Lin Manuel Miranda and I enjoyed the reading and loved Ari and Dante. And seriously, their parents are so awesome. 

Have We Met? is an adult romcom that was light and fluffy fun with a bit of magical realism. It wasn't my favorite romcom, but it was entertaining and brought me some smiles.

The Bear and the Nightingale was a fairytale retelling about Vasilisa set in the cold of Russia. It's back in time though so it wasn't actually called that yet. I had to drive two hours through a snow event the night I started reading and we got even more snow the next day while I was finishing the book so I shivered with the characters as they tried to stay warm. Brrr. We never got over 15 degrees this weekend so I shuddered thinking about not having central heat. I was reading this for a Young Adult for Adults book club. It seems a little less Y and a bit more A. Not because there is any particular content, but a lot of the story was narrated from an adult perspective. My library had it in the adult section, but Vasilisa is a young woman by the end of the book. It's one of those that is not totally one or the other, but both. 

Reading for Next Week: I'm still reading My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts. I am not sure what else I will pick up. The ALA Youth Media Awards may have some sway over my reading. As always, I am excited to see the winners. I wish you a great week. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Image of a book shelf overlaid with the words that explain that this is the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? post and the information found in the first paragraph of my post.
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you want to see more of my reading, visit my Goodreads shelves here

Last Week's Reading: 
Book covers of the four books listed below.

May Your Life Be Deliciosa is a lovely story of family, Christmas, and cooking traditions that are passed through generations. It reminded me of our own family traditions. It also brought back memories from when we lived in Ft. Worth. Our next door neighbor would bring over hot tamales to share during the holidays. A teacher at my school would also bring in a whole roaster full of them and walking into the staff room to that was such a treat. 

I was happy to get a copy of a National Geographic biography about Stacey Abrams. I have been on the lookout for quality biographies that are accessible to beginning readers and this is one that fits the bill. It's current, easy to understand, and of course has great images. 

The other two books were written for adult readers. That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story was a delightful graphic novel memoir by the same person who wrote another book I read recently - Huda F Are You?

Finally, as a reward for finishing and passing my Spanish final exam, I read The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang. It's loosely connected to The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test. It was a nice romance and again had many aspects that mirror the author's life. She makes me laugh--and blush. Anna is dealing with a lot and there's plenty to think about beyond the bedroom scenes. 

Reading for Next Week: I am just finishing up the audio of the Artistotle and Dante sequel. Be warned, I have had tears rolling. I also just started a book that will take a while--My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts. There are activities that are required that make you pause in the reading and that is sometimes for days so I think it will be a slow read. I have a book or two to read for book clubs and I will still be doing a lot of language study since my next class starts up at the end of the week. If any of you speak Spanish, I'd love to have a few opportunities to practice what I am learning. I am very slow though and I listen in slow speed too. Happy reading!

Monday, January 3, 2022

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Square that says #IMWAYR It's Monday! What are you reading? and includes the information that is in the second paragraph of this post.
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you want to see more of my reading, visit my Goodreads shelves here

Thoughts for the New Year: Jen Vincent is an encourager and I learn a lot from her. She usually chooses a word for the year (you can read about that here) and I have done it a few times in the past. I pondered many words and finally settled on Reach. I will be reaching for a lot of things--like a new job--and will be reaching out to connect with new people when we move back to California. We haven't lived there for 20 years so it won't be completely like starting over, but I don't see any familiar names at the school where I used to work. I will also be reaching in physical therapy as I recover from my knee injury which my doctor tells me will take quite a few months. There are a lot of changes ahead and much work, but we are also excited for the opportunities that now exist too. And I found a song to go with my word:



Jess Lifshitz (if you're not following her, you'll want to do that especially if you're an educator) posted about her New Year's tradition of choosing a poem here. I looked for one that fit how I'm feeling and landed on one by Zetta Elliott called We Shall Overcome

My reading goals are pretty vague this year with no specific challenges except having put a number in on my Goodreads account. The only other thing is that I want to finally, finally catch up with all of the ARCs and interviews that I have committed to and hopefully I will also stop saying yes so much. The ARCs sound wonderful and I really do want to read them all, but invariably I accept more than I can even begin to review.

Last Week's Reading: 
5 book cover images for the books discussed in the two paragraphs below.

In an attempt to deal with the backlog of ARCs, I read four YA books that I have had for a while. I loved the Robin Hood retellings like The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley and Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon so I looked forward to reading Travelers Along the Way by Amina Mae Safi. As in Kekla Magoon's tale, the main character is a young woman. In this version she is also Muslim and there are characters from a variety of racial and religious backgrounds. We also get to see into the life of Queen Isabella and not just King Richard. I'll review it more thoroughly later, but definitely recommend it. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a truly lovely fantasy and you'll want to watch for it later this year. Up All Night is a collection of short stories that are unrelated, but each take place over the span of one night. While there are a few upbeat stories, I have to say that there were more melancholy, scary, or unsettling stories than I had anticipated. Given the night theme, I suppose it was to be expected, but I missed that huge clue. I enjoyed it for the most part. Finally, Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols is a nonfiction book highlighting protest art. It also encourages young people to get out there and let their thoughts, voices, and wishes be made known through their own art. All of these ARCs will be explored more at a later time over at Rich in Color.

The other book I read with Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World and I basically read it because as we prepare to move, I'm trying to get through unread books on my shelves so I can determine if they are keepers or not. This one really isn't, but it wasn't terrible. It's a memoir by a couple who slowly became book collectors. Not like I collect books, but looking for those of monetary value or those that are rare and "important." They aren't snooty or anything, but it's just not quite my cup of tea. I kept reading though because it was one that was easy to stop and start so I didn't have a problem setting it aside.

The Coming Week: I'm still spending a lot of time with Spanish and Korean and that really impacts my reading, but I still hope to read a few more ARCs. I'm working hard in an attempt to be at a conversational level with Spanish by the time we move in the summer and wI ant to know enough Korean to at least read a picture book aloud even if I don't know the meaning of every single word. May 2022 bring you many wonderful reading experiences!

Monday, December 27, 2021

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Square that says #IMWAYR It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you want to see more of my reading, visit my Goodreads shelves here

Where Have I Been [Again]
This time, I have been out of circulation due to a fall I took a few weeks ago. I injured one of my legs and  have been slowly gaining more mobility. Winter in WI is not a great time to be on crutches, but I think I am almost ready to move around without them. I have another appointment next week to determine what we will be doing next. It's been fun navigating school this way, but have had a lot of students and staff that have been extremely helpful.

Most Recent Blogpost:



Recent Reads: 
I read two fun Young Adult books this past week. Huda F Are You? is a great graphic novel fictionalized memoir [is that the correct designation?]. Huda and her family moved to Dearborn, MI when she was starting high school. She had previously lived in a place with few Muslims and in Dearborn, she was one of many young women in hijab. It's interesting to see how she works through who she is beyond that one piece of material that had been shorthand for her whole self in the past. I also read the rom-com Miss Meteor for a book club and really enjoyed the relationships and the fantastical elements of the book.

As for middle grade books, I read and loved How to Find What You're Not Looking For and revisited Concrete & Polo Cowboy [see reviews above]. I also finally picked up The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story. It's biographical, but much is fictionalized as the author didn't have enough information and filled in the gaps. That aspect is troubling to a certain degree, but it does spark a desire to know more about him. I had non idea he died so young. 

I really enjoyed Roots Run Deep by Zetta Elliott and King Sejong Invents an Alphabet. Both had a lot of great history and again, made me want to know more. My Two Border Towns is excellent and is a great way for readers to see that there are many people who regularly cross the border. It's definitely a view that many may not have seen before and for those who have this experience, it's one of the few picture books that show this and how connected the lives can be from one side of the border to the other. 
 
The Coming Week: I still have a few ARCs to read, but am slowly but surely catching up with my large pile. I hope to finally get to the bottom of the stack over winter break. I have been spending so much time with Spanish and Korean that my reading has really dropped off, but I am slowly finding a good balance. I wish you all well.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Concrete Cowboy & Polo Cowboy

Book cover with images from the movie including a profile of Idris Elba smiling in his cowboy hat and Cole also wearing a cowboy hat sitting astride a horse.
Concrete Cowboy by G. Neri illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

Publisher: Candlewick

Pages: 211

Publisher's summary: When Cole's mom dumps him in Philadelphia to live with the dad he's never met, the last thing Cole expects to see is a horse, let alone a stable full of them. He may not know much about cowboys, but what he knows for sure is that cowboys aren't black, and they don't live in the inner city. But in his dad's world, horses are a way of life, and soon Cole's days of skipping school and getting in trouble in Detroit have been replaced by shoveling muck and trying not to get stomped on. At first, all Cole can think about is how to ditch these ghetto cowboys and get home. But when the City threatens to shut down the stables--and take away the horse Cole has come to think of as his own--he knows that it's time to step up and fight back. Inspired by the little-known urban riders of Philly and Brooklyn, this compelling tale of latter-day cowboy justice champions a world where your friends always have your back, especially when the chips are down.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book when I initially read it several years ago under the title Ghetto Cowboy. This was not only because it is well written, but also because it is about a neighborhood and way of life that I'd been unaware of before. Urban cowboys are certainly interesting and seeing that community working together was fascinating. 

Seeing Cole and his father adjusting to each other was powerful. The interactions and relationships in the story are so compelling especially the one of father to son. I reread the book so I would be able to make connections with the sequel and then I also watched the Netflix movie. The book and the movie are both  worth reading and watching though since the movie includes some things from the second book, it's a good idea to read both before watching. Here's an interesting clip with the actors talking about the father-son relationship central to the story.

   

Book cover of Polo Cowboy. Young Black man is on a horse looking at reader. A young Black woman has a polo malet slung over her shoulder and is also sitting on a horse with a slight smile on her face. She has patches of skin that are much lighter than the other skin on her face.
Polo Cowboy by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

Publisher: Candlewick

Pages: 278

Review copies: Both ARCs provided by publisher 

Publisher's Summary: When Cole moves in with his dad, Harp, he thinks life will be sweet—just him and his horse, Boo, hanging out with Philadelphia’s urban cowboys. But when Harp says he has to get a job, Cole winds up as a stable hand for the polo team at George Washington Military Academy, where the players are rich, white, and stuck-up—all except Ruthie, the team’s first and only girl, who’s determined to show the others she can beat them at their own game. As Cole and Ruthie become friends—and maybe more—he starts imagining his future, maybe even at the academy. But between long workdays, arrogant polo players, and a cousin trying to pull Cole into his dangerous business, that future seems remote. Will Cole find the courage to stand and be seen in a world determined to keep him out? With striking illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson, celebrated author G. Neri’s novel weaves themes of tenacity and community into a rousing sports story inspired by Philadelphia’s real-life urban cowboys and polo players.

G. Neri Talking About Polo Cowboy

My Thoughts: Cole still has a lot to learn about horses, being a young Black man, and relationships. Watching him put in effort and yet stumble over and over is difficult. Polo Cowboy isn't an easy book to read, but it is meaningful. Again, it deals with a topic that was unfamiliar to me. Polo is not a sport I have much experience with and for most middle grade readers it may also be new to them, but since Cole is in the position of a newbie, there is plenty of explanation. 

This is a great middle grade read that has the excitement of competition along with a bit of danger and a possibility of romance so there's a lot there to interest a variety of readers. It's one I can see many young readers enjoying. The addition of illustration is nice with both novels too. I hope to see many young readers picking up both books and getting to meet Cole and his friends and loved ones.