Tuesday, January 29, 2013

World Read Aloud Day - March 6

I can't believe it is almost time for World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) again. I loved it last year. LitWorld, a non-profit literacy organization sponsors this event. They encourage people to "celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another." Last year we were able to Skype with so many wonderful people. We read with students in a few different states and several fantastic authors shared their books with us too. If you want to see some of the fun we had, please click here and here.

Hopefully, we will be able to do a lot of reading with people from all over. It should be pretty exciting. Now I guess I need to get busy planning. If you want to participate, you may go to LitWorld to sign up and take advantage of their resources. Also, Kate Messner, author of the Marty McGuire books and many others, has a great blog post that helps teachers and librarians connect with authors. Between these resources and some reading buddies within the building and/or from the community, WRAD can be an awesome literacy event. I hope you can join in the fun.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

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 Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

Past Week:
Newbery Challenge

All three of these were re-reads and each also had a bit of mystery. What was funny was that I enjoyed them just as much or even more this time even knowing the ending ahead of time. With all of them, I felt like I was able to notice more details since I already knew the basic plot line. When You Reach Me has so many layers and twists that I still had to pay close attention. Moon Over Manifest felt even richer this time. I enjoyed the deep sense of place. Dead End in Norvelt also captured the setting very well. I felt like I knew the characters. I also laughed out loud on more than one occasion. Overall, this was a good week and it was exciting to be finishing up the Newbery Challenge. Now I am just waiting for the morning announcement at the ALA Youth Media Awards so I can read one final Newbery and completely finish this challenge - at least until next January. Yay!!

Picture Books

Lovabye Dragon was an adorable book about the unlikely friendship between a little girl and a dragon. I am so Handsome made me laugh. He is just as full of himself as the title makes him appear. This is also one of those books with a surprise ending. It is apparently a follow up to the book I am so Strong. I will have to read that one too. The Insomniacs was a book I could relate to as I am a night owl, but somehow the ending wasn't satisfactory so it was just okay.

Nerdy Shortlist 2012

After reading these two, I still have 23 Nerdy shortlist books to finish, but finishing the Newberys has been my priority. Now that I am done (or almost done) with those, I can focus on working my way through this awesome list. There Goes Ted Williams was a nice picture book biography. I especially liked the part at the end of the book that told about the more negative aspects of his personality so that he isn't portrayed entirely as a hero with no faults.

Dropping into the fantasy world of Shadow and Bone cost me some hours of sleep. I sat on the floor outside my bedroom door unwilling to go in to sleep. I was both bummed and pleased to realize at the end that it was the beginning of a series so there wasn't a nice tidy ending, but at least I know there will be more in the future.

Adult Fiction!!

Unbelievable, but I did actually read a book written for an adult audience. Strange, but true. Our former exchange student from Germany recommended it to me. Our library only had an audio version, so this is what I listened to each time I did my exercises. Measuring the World is about two very distinct personalities. One is a mathematician and the other is an explorer. It was not meant to be a comedy, but there were many funny bits in there.  One of the characters is a genius who is frustrated by the slow minds of the people around him. One time he said that "His students were the stupidest people he had ever met." It was a bit bizarre, but certainly entertaining.

For the Coming Week:
I will be reading the newest Newbery and then any of the major award books that I have not yet read. If that isn't many, then I will be working on the 2012 Nerdy Shortlist books because I want to know all of those books that the Nerdybookclub nominated last year before I move on to the 2013 books. I am so excited for the announcements! Have a great week.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Newbery Challenge - The End is Near

I believe that within the next 48 hours, I will be completing the Newbery Challenge that started last January under the inspiration of Mr. Schu (John) and Mr. Sharp (Colby).

I just finished Dead End in Norvelt and Monday morning I will discover if I need to purchase a new book or if I have already have this years' Newbery on my shelves. Hopefully it is something that I have already read. Colby is really hoping for The One and Only Ivan which is completely deserving. I have several, including Ivan, that I think are worthy, but will just enjoy the excitement of it all on Monday.

At times, this challenge has been just that -- a challenge. Some of the books in the first decades were bizarre, racist, or just plain boring. There have been many great things about the challenge too. Interacting with people on Twitter about these books made the whole experience fantastic even when the books were less than wonderful. Another fun thing has been the Newbery Challenge Videos that John and Colby have been posting each week. One special memory for me was when I watched the video about The Cat Who Went to Heaven and John even mentioned our Twitter conversation about that book. I was startled to hear my own name.

I kept track of all of the books on my Newbery Goodreads shelf and here are the Newberys that earned five stars from me. I may have to update this on Monday though depending on the announcement.

Besides the Goodreads shelf, I also created a spreadsheet of the Newberys so I could look at trends. It is interesting that the first eight Newberys went to men, but after that, the women seemed to take over. They have won 60 Newberys while only 31 men have so far. Also, if you write historical fiction, you seem to have a much better chance of winning than if you are writing anything else. Another thing I noticed was that I gave five stars to only one book each in the 50s, 60s, 70s, but four in the 80s, five in the 90s, and six (so far) in the 2000s. Children's literature has definitely shown improvement or I am completely biased toward modern books, which is also entirely possible. 

The Newbery Challenge has been a fantastic time of learning and also of memories since a little more than half were re-reads for me. I revisited many books from my childhood and adolescence. Thank you John and Colby for keeping us all going over the year and leading the way!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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 Goodreads.com or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

Past Week:
Newbery Challenge

This was another great week of Newbery reading. I especially loved the re-reads. It is funny, but I enjoyed them more than the two that were new to me, Kira-Kira and Criss Cross. It may be that because they were familiar, I rated them more highly. I'm not sure about that, but regardless, all were pretty great. 

I remembered the opening to The Graveyard Book very vividly. That is an excellent chapter to hook a reader. If I read that chapter aloud, there are always many students that want the book immediately. The wonderful thing is that though things slow down for awhile, there is still much to appreciate throughout the book. Both this book and Kira-Kira managed to get tears out of me this week. Kira-Kira was not what I expected, but was a beautiful story of love between two sisters. 

Criss Cross was slow, quiet, quirky and a bit timeless. I found it somewhat disjointed, but liked it nonetheless.

Lucky wins my heart every time I meet her again. She is fun, strong, and creative. Her scientific endeavors are impressive and the snake scene is hilarious. Love that girl. Another strong and lovable character is that adorable Despereaux. Just hearing the title or seeing the cover of the book makes me smile.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! was a bunch of fun too. Medieval times have always been fascinating to me. Using a wide variety of voices and perspectives truly gives an incredible glimpse into the daily life of that time. 

What is exciting for me is that within one week, I will complete the Newbery Challenge. I have only a few more left to read and plan to finish on the day that ALA announces the Youth Media Awards. It should be a fantastic day with the awards announcements and finishing up such a long challenge. I will have to think of something fun to do to celebrate. :)

Picture Books

These were a random mix of books that I grabbed. I love the poetry of Langston Hughes, and Bryan Collier's illustrations of I, Too, Am America were a new way to look at this poem. I had completely different images in my mind before. I appreciated the explanation at the end and it helped me enjoy the book even more on re-reading it. 

The Lonely Pine was interesting to a degree, but not a stand out. It reminded me that I still want to see the Northern Lights someday.

I hadn't known much of Booker T. Washington's story, so Fifty Cents and a Dream was informative and very interesting. I would like to read a more complete biography to learn more about him now. The other biography that I read was Noah Webster and His Words. The definitions scattered throughout the book added a nice touch of humor. It is fun that I read these two books in the same week because Webster's speller was mentioned in Fifty Cents as one of the books Booker T. Washington used as he learned to read.

The Coming Week:
The most important thing for me this week is finishing the Newbery books. I will read When You Reach MeMoon Over Manifest, Dead End in Norvelt and the yet unnamed winner that will soon be announced. Wahoo! Have a great week of reading. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

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 Goodreads.com or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

Past Week:
Newbery Challenge

Out of the Dust always manages to make me cry no matter how many times I encounter the story. The setting is stark, but so are the words. There are just enough to deliver the powerful story and they are well chosen. Bud, Not Buddy is another hard-hitting book filled with emotion, but fortunately there is also plenty of humor to lighten this tale. I have laughed my way through many times now. Every single one of these Newberys was a pleasure to read. All except one were re-reads and each carries a set of memories for me. I thought I had read A Year Down Yonder, but I had mixed it up with A Long Way to Chicago. I was happy to meet Grandma Dowdel once again. She is such a hoot and a has such a big heart. Altogether, this was a fantastic week with Newberys.

Non-fiction Books

The Impossible Rescue was a marvelous survival account. The temperature here has been in the teens and twenties this weekend, but I simply cannot fathom being outside covering over a thousand miles in the weather and conditions that they were facing. Amazing. 

I Have the Right to Be a Child is a nice piece that uses simple terminology to outline the basic rights of children as described in the Convention on the Rights of a Child that the UN adopted in 1989. This would be wonderful to use with children of any age, but it would be especially helpful to spark discussion with middle grade students. A summary of the Convention may be found here.

Picture Books

As a Shakespeare fan, I loved Shakespeare's Seasons. I am not sure if the casual child reader would enjoy it as much on their own. It is perfect though for sharing in the classroom as an introduction to Shakespeare and/or the seasons. I liked the windy day spread with "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!" from King Lear III.ii.1

I enjoyed sharing More Parts with my first grade students. Arnold humorously continues the fun storyline of a child worrying about losing parts. Perfect way to study idioms. I did like the original Parts a bit better though.

The Coming Week:
On the recommendation of a German friend, I started reading a book for adults* Measuring the World, a German bestseller about two geniuses that set out to measure the world. I am reading it with my ears as nerdybookclub members have taken to saying. I am listening as I fold laundry and knit. I have also started to read Crispin for the Newbery Challenge. I will likely finish a few more Newberys and some picture books in class at school. Have a great week of reading!

*amazing that I am reading something besides kidlit

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Everyday Photos Every Day


One of my goals for this year was to take at least one pitcher every single day. Okay, I'm being silly. Picture. I'm taking pictures. I'll be keeping my eyes open to see the wonders around me - at least that is the plan. I don't always think to do it, so hopefully this goal will get me out there looking and exploring or at least noticing the many cool things or even ordinary things that I pass by day after day.

I am choosing one picture each day to put in a collection and have managed to keep up for the most part. One of the pictures isn't posted yet because it is at school on a camera there, but otherwise, the rest are on my flickr photo stream and on a new blog for nicer viewing.

This photo goal got me to stop and check out the Black River Beach today. I was driving by and had my camera in the car. When I saw the sign for the beach, I wondered what it might look like in the winter so I pulled over. It
was actually fun to see the "Beach Closed" sign and see sand and snow in the same place. The sound of the river sloshing around under the ice and between the cracks was pretty cool too. I didn't stay long since it was only 21 degrees, but it was a nice bit of exploration. Have you wondered about anything today? It sure to encourage something fun.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat is so much fun that we took him on our summer vacation. He is also a lot of fun in the LMC. This past week some of the first grade students have been enjoying reading about Pete's shoes on our Nooks.

We even had a third grade student make a video book review of Pete the Cat. He is very enthusiastic.

If you haven't met Pete, you need to run to the nearest library or bookstore or download a digital book so you too can experience the joy. 

At the very least, you can watch the live telling of the story with the author, illustrator & musician.

Monday, January 7, 2013

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 Goodreads.com or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

Past Week:
Newbery Challenge

The 80s and 90s had some really awesome Newbery winners. I am so happy to get to them. Most of them are re-reads for me, but it is fun how even though they are not new to me, I still find new ideas and feelings as I meet them again. The one new book for me was Missing May and it was truly a treat. The language was so fun and colorful. My favorite laugh out loud moment was when they discussed reading material and Ob said, "Best reading I ever done was in my daddy's old johnnyhouse. And I don't mean dirty stuff, neither. He kept him some books on auto mechanics, fishing, Civil War--you name it. I used to love to get the diarrhea." p. 68. I had tears I was laughing so hard.

All of them had emotional impact too. These were a handful of powerful books. 

Misc. Books

I found Bird & Squirrel (a nerdy nominee) adorable & hilarious, Freedom Trail interesting & informative, and The Runaway King fabulously entertaining. I was soooo excited to see Runaway King on Netgalley and even more excited when they approved me.

All in all, it was a great week of reading.

The Coming Week:
I have started The Midwife's Apprentice and will continue with more Newbery books. I am kind of wanting to just finish them off this month by the time the Awards are given out. That way I can move on to other things. Including that one and the one they will announce on January 28th, I have 18 more to go. So if I read about one a day, it would work. I just don't know if pushing that hard will be too stressful. We'll see. Happy reading!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Newbery Review

I am finally getting my ducks in a row. I wanted to make a spreadsheet of the Newbery winners so I can kind of wrap my head around what we have been through over the past year in the Newbery Challenge. As I fill in the chart, I easily see the difficulty of the first few decades. In response to Daniel Boone I wrote:  It set my teeth on edge. Bad enough when referencing them [Native Americans] as red savages and similar comments, but these types of comments were just ridiculous, they "met personal tragedy of violent death with serene indifference." Really? Is that what it was?

Early on I commented to a friend on Goodreads, "Going through the Newberys in order is rather painful. It's like going through a patch of weeds and occasionally finding a beautiful flower, but more often than not getting stung by nettles."

The low points for me were Shen of the Sea, Waterless Mountain, and Daniel Boone. The Story of Mankind was also tough to slog through since it was written like a history text, but it wasn't quite as horrifyingly offensive as the other three.

Fortunately, the first few decades had a few good ones to balance out the misery. Invincible Louisa and Thimble Summer were favorites for me.

I am enjoying this trip over the past year and will be interested to look at the overall picture I have when I finish the whole challenge. This has been an adventure and it has been fantastic sharing the journey with other Nerdybookclub members. Recently I've had some wonderful books to read like Missing May, Bridge to Terabithia and Number the Stars and we still have some awesome books coming up. The beginning of the challenge was exactly that -- a challenge, but the later books have made it all worth it. Also, I appreciated seeing the progression and development of children's literature over time. I'm definitely glad I started out on this path. So far since January 1, 2012, I have read the winners from 1922 through 1993. There are twenty more for me to finish. It's pretty cool that one of them will be announced within the next few weeks. It makes this year's award announcements seem even more fun. Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year - New Goals


1. Finish the rest of the Newbery Award Winners (I read 68 of them in 2012) as part of Mr. Schu's Newbery Challenge

2. My Goodreads goal this year is 800 (I finished 749 in 2012)

3. Finish reading the Caldecotts as part of the Caldecott Challenge described by LibLaura5

4. Read the rest of the Nerdies nominees from 2012 (I have 28 to go)


1. Present at a conference

2. Share technology with educators in my school and district (Tech 20 or Tech zoo)

3. Arrange author Skype visits for each class

4. Complete my portfolio for license


1. Take photographs as often as possible (at least one a day)

2. Stay active even in the winter

I may add to or tweak these over time, but I wanted to have something tangible to look back on over the coming year. It's a start. Happy New Year!