Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Madness!

I wanted to try to post something every day this month. Whew! I made it. Today's post is going to be pretty brief though as it is late and I have a long drive tomorrow morning so I am hurrying.

Fortunately, I will not be posting every day all of the time. Sometimes the posts were long and sometimes they were short, but they always take time for thinking and creating. I don't want my blog to be something that stresses me out, so I will try not to do challenges like this all of the time. Thanks for visiting the blog and I hope that sometimes there are things on here that are helpful.

Having the blog is helpful for me for sure because it gets me thinking. And makes me look for things like this:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Favorite Audio Books

Audio books are such fabulous things - especially when on a road trip. I am so thankful to have audio books to keep me awake and help me keep up with my reading. Here are a few that I have really enjoyed over the years.

Children's Lit

Young Adult

Which audio books would you recommend? Happy listening!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Hide and Seek

Title: Hide and Seek (Capture the Flag #2)
Author: Kate Messner
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 256 pages
Audience: Ages 8-12
Genres: Mystery, Action/Adventure
Review Copy: E-ARC via NetGalley
Release Date: April 1, 2013

Summary from Goodreads: A fast-paced mystery from the author of CAPTURE THE FLAG!

José, Anna, and Henry are junior members of the secret Silver Jaguar Society, sworn to protect the world's most important artifacts. When they discover that the society's treasured Jaguar Cup has been replaced with a counterfeit, the trio and their families rush to the rain forests of Costa Rica in search of the real chalice. But when the trail runs dry, new mysteries emerge: Who can they trust? Is there a traitor in their midst? With danger at every turn, it will take more than they realize for José and his friends to recover the cup before it falls into the wrong hands.

My Review: Kate Messner has delivered another action-filled and intriguing mystery for her fans.  José, Anna and Henry find plenty of danger and excitement as they help the Silver Jaguar Society try to find the missing Jaguar Cup. In this installment, readers are treated to unusual animals like the glass frogs and bullet ants as the young investigators tromp through the Costa Rican jungle. She also provided a cave excursion. The walls have glowing crystal formations and it all sounds quite amazing.

In addition to a colorful and lush setting, Messner has just the right balance of suspense, humor and action throughout the book. There are chases through the jungle, snot frogs, a zip line, a "swinging bridge of death" and many other bits of fun to bring a chuckle and a smile to the faces of readers. For the mystery lovers, there is plenty to puzzle out and try to solve as the junior Silver Jaguars work to recover the cup and keep each other safe. There are also a few other threads of the story to untangle since the friends are keeping a few secrets from each other. Of course this leads to some difficulties between the friends, but that adds to the believability as they fuss at each other on occasion. What is a bit harder to believe is that their parents are once again not really in the picture during the story, but that isn't terribly distracting. So much is going on that it is just a blip.

Hide and Seek has much going for it and with the wonderful sense of place that Messner has created, this book surpasses the first in my eyes. Hide and Seek will be a welcome addition to any library.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Blogging Fun

After the #diverselit chat on Twitter a few weeks ago, another woman and I connected. We had both wanted to do something to promote diverse literature. One way to do that is to purchase such books and spread the word. We now have the blog up and a few reviews already posted. My head spins just thinking about how quickly we have been working, but it has also been fantastically fun. If you are interested in becoming involved or would like to take advantage of the reviews, information, and resources there, please stop by Rich in Color. We are looking for some more people who would like to be co-bloggers so if you or anyone you know might want to join us, we would be happy to hear from you.

Monday, March 25, 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.

I didn't realize how little I have read until I started this post. They were all good though.

The Past Week:
Young Adult

Just as I suspected (and the primary reason it took me so long to read it), Wintergirls was a challenging read. Experiencing an eating disorder even a fictional one, is quite emotional and difficult. I had been avoiding it, but so many people have praised the book. I knew that Laurie Halse Anderson writes so clearly and always makes me see her characters as real people so I was a bit afraid to go there. I read it "with my ears" so was puzzled by some of the things happening. I realized after I read a review that the voice actor was having to deal with crossed out words and sentences. I will have to flip through an actual copy so I can get a sense of how the book looked too. This was a great audio book.

I really enjoyed Orleans. It is set in the future when New Orleans has been ravaged by hurricanes and a plague. I have a more thorough review posted at a new blog focused on diverse YA lit called Rich in Color. There are also some links to a giveaway and a prequel. By the way, if you or anyone you know is interested in contributing to that blog, we are recruiting for bloggers.

I am coming to comic books and graphic novels late in life so am still developing my taste for them. I enjoyed Batwoman: Elegy. She is certainly one tough lady. I am still not a comic book reader at this point, but she just may win me over.

The Coming Week:
I am in the middle of an audio book by Bruchac called The Winter People. I am always amazed at the difference in the way French and Native Americans interacted contrasted with the British. I am also reading Dodger by Pratchett. After that I will be reading Courage Has No Color. Then, I am not sure what will be next. There happen to be at least 11 books behind me and more at school, so I have plenty to choose from for Spring Break which should instead be called Spring long weekend. Happy reading!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Dreaded E-Portfolio

I am back at work on my e-portfolio. Why am I spending my precious weekend time on such a thing? Only because my license is expiring and the state would not be likely to give me a new one without it. I'm guessing my school district would frown on that.

So, after trying numerous logins and passwords, I finally figured out how to get back into my account that hasn't really been modified since 2007 when I graduated. I worked for a few hours on Saturday. To my chagrin, I actually find this process a little fun. How geeky is that? I am so embarrassed. 

So I am combing through Tweets, blog posts and other online work that I have done to find my "artifacts" and am thinking through my educational philosophy, mission and all of those types of things.  The worst part of it all is discovering that I actually like this activity. I feel like this should be way less enjoyable, but there it is. I must be crazy -- but it's a good kind of crazy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Twitter Fun

Twitter has become such a great way to enhance my professional life. This school year through my Twitter friends I:

  • Planned Skype visits with other educators so our students could celebrate reading together and learn a bit about other parts of the country.
  • Connected with another person to begin a new blog together about diverse young adult literature (more information on that coming soon)
  • Found out about and attended the EdCampMadWI
  • Continually hear about amazing books through participation in the Nerdybookclub
  • Found a great resource for my fifth grade teachers who will be teaching a graphic novel unit soon
  • Participate in fantastic chats like #titletalk and #diverselit
  • Meet inspirational people who keep me excited about learning
  • Hear about great new book trailers to share with my students
There are so many more things that I could say, but ultimately, Twitter helps me continue to learn. You can find me on Twitter @librarygrl2. Thanks Tweeps!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Poetry Friday

Billy Collins is simply fabulous. No anti-poetry deflector shields allowed.

He makes me smile and think. A wonderful combination.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sparkly Bits

cc licensed (by SA) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

This is one of the things that made my day. The pre-k students were working with papier-mâché. They used one of these old-fashioned egg beater thingies. After cleaning up, a student was passing through the library spinning it like crazy. The teacher with him saw my eyes light up so she asked him to let me see it. Score! I got to spin it too. These are the little bits of fun that make a day sparkly.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mystery Skype

Where in the World Are They?

We had a blast during our Mystery Skype today!

We had a team of geographers with actual maps and an iPad too.

Students read our clues aloud to the other class.

We tried to give information in our clues, but not TOO much information.

We had students busy recording information on Today's Meet too.

When we were finished, we guessed that they were in Texas and we were right! They guessed correctly also. What a great time. We had a few minutes to talk about books too. Cynthia Alaniz and her class are fans of The One and Only Ivan! We love this way of learning about out country and connecting with each other. I highly recommend Mystery Skypes. If you want to see a great tool for planning and prepping students, go to this blog post at Langwitches. They provide a great list of possible jobs for your students. Give it a try if you have a chance. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trailer Tuesday - It Jes' Happened

Also, very fun to see author opening the package when he got the ARC of his book.
He even does a happy dance.

Don Tate talks about his writing process in this interview in part one and part two.

Monday, March 18, 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.

The Past Week:
Challenge Books

Since biographies are a favorite of mine, I was sure I would enjoy Charles and Emma. I certainly did, but I found myself surprised that it is considered a young adult book. I am not sure why it is marketed to them rather than adults. There is not much that would necessarily attract them except for the romance between two people who were certainly not in their teens for the majority of the book. I found it a little dry sometimes, but the relationship between Charles and Emma was quite compelling. I understand why it won a Printz to a certain degree, but I also wonder if teens read it often. 

The next two were Nerdy Nominees in 2012. 

The design of Birds of a Feather will definitely make this one a kid pleaser. There are so many flippy flappy things that I know it will be loved. And on top of that, it is oversized. Very impressive. The only problem is might be too loved. I can see this being pretty much destroyed quickly if too many hands are on it.

It took me a little while to get into The Cloak Society. The plot seemed a bit too precisely planned and orchestrated, but eventually I was absorbed by the story and raced through the second half. It is an action packed adventure and I expect that many of my upper grade students will enjoy it.

More Young Adult

I thought that the graphic novel Ichiro was quite good. A trailer is posted here. Once in awhile though I had comprehension problems during the monster scenes and there were a lot of monsters. I guess I could use this as an example to my students. Sometimes, even adults lose track of the storyline. I really enjoyed the Japanese mythology and the view of WWII from a Japanese perspective. For many people war is a black and white kind of thing and I don't think it ever is really.

Someone sent me an unsolicited ARC for White Lines. It is a story about a New York club girl in the 80s with a drug problem and how she got to that point. It kept my interest throughout, though she annoyed me sometimes. I have a more thorough review at Goodreads.

Non-Fiction Picture Books

It is Women's History Month and I went to a STeM resource event at a local university, so I read a lot of non-fiction. Yay! That has been a bookgap for me so I was happy.  

My favorite for sure was the biography of Tito Puente. If you missed it, I had the trailer posted last week. I shared his music and a bit of the book with my second graders. Quite a hit. Iggy Peck cracked me up and Harlem's Little Blackbird moved me and Look Up! is just cool. Lots of great books!

Fiction Picture Books

Loved Noodle's Knitting in spite of the lack of a substantial plot. Being able to feel the yarn and the fact that I love knitting really won me over. I would have loved Quickie more had the illustrations been better. I am sad for that since I know we have a lot of Packer and Donald Driver fans in my school. Actually, this book is probably better described as a memoir as Driver's nickname as a child was Quickie.

Middle Grade Novels

My favorite book of any kind this week was Almost Home. I loved meeting tough yet gentle Sugar -- hearing her voice and reading her poetry. I also realized that I need a rubber chicken in my life. Her teacher, Mr. Bennett is inspirational and simply fabulous. Bauer really uncovers the issue of homelessness. When they hear the word homeless, many people may only think of old poor men sitting on the street without realizing how many types of people have become homeless for many different reasons. I appreciated that the book doesn't have a perfect ending, but a somewhat more realistic one. In that, it reminded me of One for the Murphys.

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's was a very quick and lighthearted read. There is a lot of white space and has short chapters so it is really much shorter than it looks. I was a bit frustrated throughout though because I wanted to fuss at everyone and say why are you trying to trap something that wants to be free?

And finally, I gave Tintin a try after Anita Silvey featured the Tintin books on her Bookaday Almanac. I had read some time ago and didn't remember it well, but had read something about it on Debbie Reese's blog American Indians in Children's Literature. From what I can tell the author actual may have been joking around or making some kind of political statement. Regardless of his intent, there are such negative stereotypes in the two I read, that it made me a bit ill. It wasn't as bad in the Picaros book, but still, the indigenous people were victims to alcohol and were easily manipulated. In Tintin in America, all of the Indians are in full war dress while sitting around casually, they speak with broken English, and are ignorant and easily fooled. They also try to scalp a young white boy based on the word of a random stranger. Perfect reading for my students? Not by a long shot. I understand the appeal. I really do. It is full of action and "perils of Pauline" type of adventures. It is also a bit of nostalgia for our generation who grew up reading Tintin. Back in the day, there weren't as many choices, but I know that there are piles and piles of wonderful high-interst action-filled graphic novels available for our students now that do not have negative stereotypes, so I will choose to buy those instead.

For the Coming Week:
I am still listening to Wintergirls and have just started another young adult novel Orleans (BTW there's a giveaway of this book going on right now at Young Adult Books Central). 

I have this pile waiting, but I am not sure which ones I will get to next. If you see any I should definitely read next, let me know. What are you reading?Have a great week!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: The Runaway King

Title: Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #2)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 352
Audience: 10 and up
Genre: Adventure
Review Copy: ARC via NetGalley
Release Date: March 1, 2013

Summary from Publisher: 
A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of the Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

My Review:
I adored the first book in this series, The False Prince. I have recommended it to many students and teachers because I know that the book grabs the reader and takes them on a wild ride that they hope will never end. I couldn't wait for the sequel, but was also concerned since sometimes the second book in a series seems to just be marking time.

In The Runaway King, Nielsen did not disappoint. Jaron has managed to be king for about a month without incident, but then everything goes horribly wrong. An assassin shows up during the funeral observance for his family, pirates are on their way to attack, and political intrigue permeates the castle. Of course, Jaron chooses a most unorthodox way of dealing with the threats to his kingdom. Kings are usually protected and stay back out of the conflict, but he runs toward the trouble. He doesn't know if anything he is doing can possibly save anyone, but he knows he has to try.

Nielsen skillfully packed action consistently throughout the book. Just when you think Jaron has a moment of peace, everything falls to pieces. Jaron's voice continues to be humorous and charming in the midst of the many dangerous and sometimes slightly ridiculous situations in which he finds himself. In spite of all the excitement, Nielsen also manages to introduce many interesting and unique characters. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone fond of a good tale of adventure. With assassins, royalty, pirates, thieves, sword fights, and plenty of humorous lines, how could you go wrong?


Literary Rambles has a giveaway going on through March 30, 2013 for a digital copy of the book. Click here if you are interested.

Scholastic has a Teacher's Discussion Guide for both books here.

Also, there doesn't seem to be a book trailer for The Runaway King yet, but here is the one from The False Prince.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Excellent Places to Read

Inspired by author Darlene Beck Jacobson and her post at the Nerdybookclub blog, I started thinking about excellent places to read. I too came up with a top ten.

At first, I was thinking about all of these cool places to go like the Empire State Building or Paris or gondola rides in Italy, but realized if that is where I was, I would probably rather be enjoying the view unless I had experienced the place many, many times. So here are some realistic yet fabulous places to read.

For Real Top Ten Places to Read

10. Up in a tree

 9. In a tent with an e-reader so I can see even if everyone else has fallen asleep

 8. At The Root Note (cafe) when they have a good jazz set going

 7. In front of a nice roaring fireplace with just enough light to see the words

 6. On the deck of a cabin in the woods in the mountains

 5. On a blanket under a tree with my dog beside me

 4. On the beach under a huge umbrella

 3.  In a warm bubble bath

 2. At a fabulous library

 1. Tucked in bed with huge pillows and a cup of tea

Fantasy Top Ten Places to Read

10. In a gondola in Venice

 9. On a tropical island in a hammock (without any insects)

 8. In Hannah Tupper's meadow

 7. On a hill surrounded by blueberries that I can reach out and pick when I get hungry

 6. At Cair Paravel in Narnia

 5. In the library at Hogwarts

 4. By the fire in the home of the March sisters

 3. Tucked in a very old bed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art after visiting hours

 2. While taking a bath in the prefect bathroom at Hogwarts

 1. In a hobbit hole in Middle Earth

Where would you like to read?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wondering Along

Here are a few of the things that I am wondering this week.

Will it still be snowing in May?

Will I ever figure out the tone markers in the Hmong language?
There are 8 possible tones (or in one case the absence of a tone). B M J V __ S G D
I can tell you what they are, but using them properly is another story.



Do we have too many books in the house? Is it possible to have too many books?
In the interest of full disclosure, there are actually more in boxes too.

Will I be a blubbering basketcase when it is time to present at the WEMTA conference?
And more importantly -- did I really think it was a good idea to present on the Common Core?

Will I buy and wear a jingly Zumba wrap one day? 
Also, wouldn't it be cool to go to a belly dancing class?

I also wonder how many days it will take to move us from the left picture to the right?

What are you wondering today?