Thursday, January 30, 2014

Family Literacy Day with Chris Van Allsburg

We always invite parents to come read with students on Family Literacy Day. This year I went with an author theme - my favorite, Chris Van Allsburg!

It was so fun to see reactions as they discovered these stories. Loved it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One Tiny Turtle (Nicola Davies)

The ELL teacher in our school gave me this book after she had read the decodable that we are using this week in our class. It is about turtles and has some really interesting facts. This book had some amazing pictures and more facts and the children really did love it. She read it to the ELL group of kids, and gave it to me to share with everyone. Today we read it. I think it was quite helpful for the ELL kids to hear it again, and interesting for the other kids as well.

Goodreads Summary:

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Lyrically chronicles the journey of a tiny, endangered loggerhead turtle as she hatches on the beach, struggles to reach the water's edge, and survives the ocean's dangers to one day return and lay her own eggs on the very same beach.

For use in schools and libraries only? I had no idea there were books like that. I wonder why they do that??? Why not sell your book to everyone?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My story (Elizabeth Smart)

I don't know what to rate this book on Goodreads. To give it a one star because of the lack of depth in the writing seems disrespectful. To give it five stars seems to give credence to the horror that David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee inflicted on Elizabeth. It isn't the most beautifully crafted story. However, the story truly is astounding. Elizabeth's resilience is remarkable and she is a testament to the miracle of the atonement available to all. I found myself cringing as I read it, and unable to out it down as a groped for the hope I knew would come at the end. Thank goodness for happy endings. Her dedication to important principles like gratitude and not letting anyone steal anymore of her happiness are astounding.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two Bad Ants (Chris Van Allsburg)

Chris Van Allsburg is probably one of my most favorite picture book authors. His books are mysterious, entertaining, and a delight to read to children. I've reviewed it in the past. Never hurts to talk about it again!

I read Two Bad Ants to my class today during library time. It was so funny to see them start to clue the idea that the ants, thinking they were gathering up magic crystals of some sort, had actually come across a sugar bowl. They laughed and laughed through all the antics of the ants.

This would be a great story to use when teaching perspective.

The Goodreads summary says:

The three-time Caldecott medalist tells the tale of two ants who decide to leave the safety of the others to venture into a danger-laden kitchen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Goose! Goose! Moose! (Dave Horowitz)


This is a very simple book, but when I read it to my class they laughed and laughed and laughed. My voice for the moose sounded like he wasn't that bright, I think. They loved it when the Moose says he has to pee. They loved it when on page he is seen picking his nose. It's fun and silly and pretty good entertainment if you ask me!

I noticed, when I read it again, that there are things the kids missed too. I put it in my library corner and whoever has it during DEAR times ends up sitting there snickering away. I love it when that happens!

I loved the author's note:

"All characters and events in theis book are fictional. Any resemblance to the family road trips the author was forced to go on as a child is purely coincidental--especially page 17!"

This would be a fun book to read prior to a long break like Fall Break or Spring Break when families often go on road trips. It could also be one to read when talking about animals and what they do during different seasons. The ducks migrate south, the bear hibernates, and the moose just loves winter no matter what!

Goodreads summary:

An unlikely trio heads south for the winter! Moose loves the Great North Woods because they?re nice and cold, his buddy Bear lives there, and the pancakes are top-notch. He doesn?t usually go south for the winter, but with Bear off hibernating and the Pancake Hut closing until spring, he figures he might as well take the great schlep with Duck and Other Duck. The trio ends up in the exotic land of Florida and Moose is forever dazzled.
Dave Horowitz brings to life the joy of discovering a place completely unlike home?as well as the thrills of bringing a little bit of vacation back home with you!

Monday, January 20, 2014

What I'm Reading

People keep giving me books. I have lots to read this week! I feel like I'm all over the place with what I'm reading - I have a book in the van for while I'm waiting for kids, a book at school to read during DEAR time, a book by my bed - and piles of books to get to. Time for a serious week of reading! ....if only I didn't have so many other things to do. *sigh* I'll give it a go!

Still working on A Long Way Gone
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Loving Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Someone loaned me My Story by Elizabeth Smart. I started it on Sunday and it has really captivated me.
My Story

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Counting by 7s

I loved this book. The main character, Willow, is charming and smart and quite wise for a 12 year old. She experiences what I always feared as kid. My parents traveled a lot and I always worried they would be involved in a plane crash or car accident. I would plan what I would do if they died. Willow does experience this and unlike me, she really has no one. There is no extended family or really close family friends for her to turn to. She manages, somehow, to find people though and a new family is formed. It was beautiful.

This was a book that made me slow down and savor the words. Loved loved loved it.

You should read more about it on Goodreads.

Home Reading

For someone who loves books and reading as much as I do, some might find it odd that I am such a non-fan and poor participant in home reading programs schools dream up. I am part of the madness too though. I follow the protocol at our school and assign home reading to my students. I don't require signatures for how long people read though, so I feel good about that. We do send a little book home each week - which probably takes a minutes or so to read. Then they are encouraged to read whatever they want. I really wonder how often it really gets done. I ask parents to initial every time a child reads. I have noticed that sometimes all the days are initialed when the week hasn't even had enough days for all those initials.

...things that make teachers go hmmmm....

I have to admit though, I totally get it. I've never been good at home reading programs with my own kids. My kids have always read a lot, but I'm terrible at keeping track of how much time they've read, and I'm really terrible at listening to them read in French - which is what we're supposed to do. I've often thought it was odd that in a French Immersion program where they say they understand that the parents don't speak French and accomodate that, why they want us to listen to kids read in French. I can't really give any correction or feedback. And besides that, it's plain awful to have to listen to something that you absolutely don't understand.

...well, I sort of understand. Now and then there's a noun I get, and I hear the repetition of verbs, and some words stick out - but it doesn't stick in my head. And I usually have no idea what he is reading about. I never really worried about it much. Most teachers don't follow up. That last two years though, Peirce's teachers have often followed up, as a result, we are doing more French home reading.

All this makes me wonder if this is how parents of ELL students feel. Is it as painful for them to listen to a kid read aloud? My guess is, it probably is.

That being said, I think I have found a secret. I have read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane a number of times, and am reading it again with my grade 3 book club right now. I found a copy of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in French (L'odyssée miraculeuse d'Edouard Toulaine) and I am understanding a little more of what he reads because I'm quite familiar with the story.

The best part is how much he is enjoying it. Without getting into the ugly description of it all, generally I have to make my son read aloud to me each day. Yesterday we had our usual, "It's time to read." followed with, "I don't want to right now. I'm hungry." (just minutes earlier I had asked him to eat his supper and he wasn't hungry....he was very busy playing with his DS) There's plenty of huffing and stomping and complaining...and then the reading starts. I had been telling him how great the book is. Tonight he finally caught it. His finished a chapter and he stopped and stared off into space. I asked why he was doing that and he replied that he just felt so sad. He said he didn't want to read this book anymore because it just made him so sad.

My heart leaped. Yea! Sadness is good! When the emotions of a book get into your heart, then you know you're really getting it.

He was really getting it.

A fabulous discussion ensued. We talked about why Edward was so unfeeling, and why he was now finally feeling fear. We talked about how sad it would be to lose something you love. My son wondered how Abilene felt as Edward fell overboard the ship. He wondered how the rabbit felt. His sister even interjected asking why the rabbit was afraid he would dround, after all, he's just a toy and doesn't breathe. He quickly corrected that Edward does have feelings and so it makes sense he'd be afraid. Our discussion went on about what happens later in the book and the connections there are to biblical stories of Jesus. Honestly, it was a fabulous conversation.

Which took me back to the just takes the right book. Even in French. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

What I Am Reading

I'm still working on A Long Way Gone.  I didn't get too far on it because two holds that I've really want to read came in for me!

One hold that came in is Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. It's quite hilarious so far! I have to fiinish Counting by 7s first though because as of tomorrow I'll be paying fines on it at the library. It has holds, so tonight is the night to finish it!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo)

I just finished reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane again. I have read it and reviewed it before. I will just say today that I LOVE this book.

Tonight, as I finished it, I got goosebumps all down my back and on my legs. I don't think a book has ever done that to me before.

I LOVE this book.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What I'm Reading This Week

I'm so excited to be back at school this week. I can't say I really did a lot of reading over the winter break. At least, not as muc has I had hoped to. It's good to be back to the routine of swim practices/reading at the pool!

This week I am re-reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo since we are reading it for our Grade 3 book club. I need to get the quizzes ready for Edmodo and I am enjoying making a bit of a study of the book. Seems to me there is some more significant symbolism in this book that I'm not quite understanding just yet.

I also plan to read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. I'm a little nervous about reading it as it seems like it might be a little too real and graphic for me. I am reading it along with some colleagues and am fascinated with the story. I hope I have the stomach for it!

And, if all goes well, I am going to try to squeeze Counting by 7's in too. I've heard so much about it. I really want to read it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Boy in the Box (Cary Fagan)

I kept calling it my dam book. It took me so long to get into it! I have so many books I want read right now - and this one was blocking the way to all those a dam! I had heard a lot of good about it and so I didn't want to give up on it, but I just couldn't get into it. I don't know if it was my own lack of focus or weak reading muscles, or just the demands of everything else during the holidays, but it took me forever to get through the first 100 pages. That was when I really got into it. If I was bold enough to give the author some advice, I'd recommend he tighten up the beginning of the book. It basically describes Sullivan's boring and sad life, for 100 pages. After page 100 he runs off with the circus. It becomes very compelling and easier to stick with! 

 One sad aspect of the book is how Sullivan is kind of nobody. He has a best friend, Norval Simick, but they aren't the kind of friends who hang out at each other's house and are friends on Facebook. They just knew each other at school. Besides the bully, Samuel Patinsky, no one else seems to even notice when Sullivan is gone. They have a cold and impersonal assembly to tell all the kids that he has "died" and then they raise the flag to full height from half mast, and on life goes. Even though Samuel is a bully, it seems like it's the one ray of hope that at least someone knew him - even if he was a bully to him. His parents don't even go looking for him. And the owners of the circus are just plain mean. The only hope is his little sister - and he hasn't always been that nice to her. It is a hopeless situation!

Knowing there is a second book is the only thing that stopped me from throwing the book against the wall when it ended, or didn't end, as in this case. I had many thoughts about what the author was trying to teach in this book. Perhaps a lesson could be to be sure to express your concerns to the people around you, rather than assume no one cares? Or perhaps it could be to be sure to tell people you care while they're around you? Or perhaps it could be to learn to be happy in the moment? Or then again, maybe it could be that sometimes it's worth sacrificing everything to start a new and meaningful life? I loved what "Stephanie" said on Goodreads about the book:
In fact, Sullivan and his story are so bland that they’re not really the focus of the book. The book’s focus, really, is how the other people in his life react to his disappearance. His only friend, Norval, for example, develops a strong friendship with repentant school bully Samuel Patinsky because of Sullivan’s disappearance; and without Sullivan to bully, Samuel finds himself reassessing his king-of-the-schoolyard ways. Sullivan, in a way, is almost an anti-character. It’s not Sullivan, really, that moves the book along: it’s his absence. It’s a risky approach, and to be honest, it was until the last quarter of so of the book that I actually began to appreciate what Fagan was attempting to do here. In large part I think this was because I felt somehow that the writing had a sort of dead, toneless feel to it. No matter the neat plotting and tidily distinguished characters propping up the big top of the narrative, the book just felt flat to me, and I found that I was trying to convince myself to care.
Here entire review is here. It's really quite good. This book brings up so many questions!! There are many quotable parts of the book that are great fodder for discussion.
There are moments in lifew hen, even as you are determined to do something, you know that it is wrong. You may not know why and so you dismiss the feelingas cowardice or laziness or some other personal failing, rather than for waht is is - a warnng from some deep part of the brain. (Chapter 7, page 83)
I loved the way the author described performing:
There is a moment, just before curtain, when a transformation takes place, when players leave behind their ordinary beings and become their larger, dramatic selves. It happens whether the stage is large or small, the audience a handful or in the thousands. It happens whether the actors are famous or unknown. And although he could not have described it in words, Sullivan felt it happen. He even saw it in Master Melville's face just before going on - he became eager, smiling and confident.
It reminded me so much of life as a teacher. It's like performing!

Sullivan is talking to Mistress Melville, the female head of the circus bunch, about his act they have put together:
"You thought of this because I Look so ordinary. Because it seems like there's nothing special at all about me." (Chapter 19, p. 222)
She goes on to say that the audience will love it and that they love seeing something who makes mistakes, who is accidental, who then surprises them with his skill. She was right. Perhaps we love that kind of thing because we all feel a little ordinary and have a hard time showing the greatness that really is in each of us. I MUST read book 2 now. If only I could figure out what book 2 is!

UPDATE: I emailed Cary Fagan and happily, he responded very quickly! The second book is due to be out in February. I think I will go pre-order it! It is called The Show to End All Shows

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kate DiCamillo "Sightings"

I don't know what they call it, but there is some name to the situation where once you have something you notice it everywhere. You get a silver car and suddenly you notice that everyone has silver cars. Well, for me, lately, I keep reading about Kate DiCamillo. Is it just because we are reading her book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for book club? Or is it just a coincidence?

I read a blog post on Kirby Larson's blog, by a guest blogger.

Then I read that she has been chosen to be an ambassador for children's lit for all the USA (read about that here)

Okay. Maybe it isn't that I am seeing things about her everywhere...just the first two blogs I opened up tonight.

Strange coincidences!

...I just wish I could figure out how to connect with her on Twitter!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg)

I really wanted to like this book. Many parts of the book were great. As I read it I felt like my ideas were expanding on attitudes I had about success and working lives of women. I think in many respects, though, Sheryl Sandberg doesn't speak for the every day working woman. She is in a different league. While many women simply don't have the choices she has had, she does a good job of making the reader thinking about how women have, at times, imposed limitations on themselves. Often women don't really commit themselves to a career because they know that one day they will have other things happen in life that will make their career a 2nd priority. It's a real dilemma. She does have some interesting perspectives on resolving that dilemma, but there is still much work to do.