Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Best School Year Ever - The Herdman's #2 (Barbara Robinson)


I came across this book by chance. I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and loved it. I have always wanted to do it for grade 3 book club, but I figured the slang on the real Christmas story might not fly very well with everyone in school. This one has the same hilarity and would totally work for grade 3 book club! It even has a bit of character attached to the story with the teacher's year long assignment to make a list of positive traits about everyone in the class.

This book reminded me of sitting around listening to my aunt and uncle and their kids talk about funny stories in their insurance adjusting business.....matter of fact stories with hilarity attached.

Goodreads says:

The Worst Kids in the History of the World!

When anything goes wrong at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, from the hexing of Bus Six to the mysterious disappearance of the kindergarten gerbil, it's sure to have a Herdman behind it. The Herdmans are more than famous -- they're outlaws. They smoke cigars, lie, and set fire to things, and that's only when they bother to come to school!

Then a school project forces the students to think of compliments for all their classmates -- including the Herdmans. Is it possible that behind their outrageous pranks there may be something good about this crazy clan after all?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Slim for Life (Jillian Michaels)


I listened to the audio book. Jillian Michaels is hilarious. I love how real she is.

This is a great book. It is one that I should buy a copy of because it is one to read every six months and to get a plan for new habits to add to healthy living. This book is full of great ideas. I like that she doesn't expect you to wipe out any food groups or take any weird pills or starve. Bonus!

New habits I will incorporate:
1. Always have a plan
2. Carry healthy snacks
3. Eat every four hours

Goodreads says:

Stop battling your weight and slim down for life with this no-nonsense, insider's plan from America's health, wellness, and weight-loss guru: Jillian Michaels. She has helped millions lose weight and feel great, and now she can help you, too.

Bestselling author and Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels swore she'd never write another diet book. But she realized that with all of the conflicting, overly complicated information being thrown at you each day, what you need is a clear, simple plan that cuts through all the confusion to deliver amazing results, fast. This book distills all she's learned about diet, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle to provide anyone seeking to be slim, strong, and healthy with an easier path to achieving dramatic body transformation.

No nonsense, no gimmicks, just actionable advice that gets incredible results fast!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Healthy Brain, Healthy Life (Wendy Suzuki)


I'm fascinated at how exercise is such a big part of every brain book I read. It makes all the difference. I can testify to that! I loved her research on how exercise helps with creativity, problem solving, mood and more. It made me want to recommit to getting my students to move more. I also think that when the school day ends, I should go for a walk around the block and think about what went great and what I need to follow up on the next day before I sit down. Perhaps I'd be more productive if I did. Her stories of voicing intentions while exercising made a lot of sense. I have read recently how important it is to use all the senses to increase memory - see it, read it, write it, say it. This fits well with what she talked about.

I really enjoyed the mix of science and personal experiences in this book. It made it much more relate-able than just straight science research.

This book made me want to work on adding meditation to my life.

I listened to this as an audio book and I have to admit I found the voice a little irritating. It was a little too bouncy and chipper (which I feel silly saying...but it's true). I liked the brain hacks (ways to implement the topics of the chapter) at the end of each chapter.

Goodreads says:

Dr. Wendy Suzuki one day woke up and realized she didn’t have a life. As an almost-40-year-old award-winning college professor, world-renowned neuroscientist, she had—what many considered—everything: tenure as a professor at New York University; her own very successful neuroscience research lab; prizes for scientific discoveries on cognition and memory; articles published in prestigious scientific journals. As a woman and a scientist, she was the envy of her peers and lauded by her superiors. On paper, she had a stellar career and an impeccable record. 

What could she possibly be missing? Everything else. 

Suzuki was overweight. She was tired. She was lonely, had strained work relationships, and for the first time in her life, completely without direction. So she resolved to change her life. The first step--get moving. 

Everyone knows that exercise makes you feel better—that when you hit the gym despite the dread, you leave in a better mood. Healthy Brain, Happy Life offers the real science of how exercise effects your mind. 

Using Wendy’s journey from frumpy, fat and frustrated to fit and fabulous as a guide, Healthy Brain offers not just the HOWS of making exercise an important part of life, but the WHYS of the benefits it brings. But movement is just the first step to being Brain Healthy. Once you get your body and mind hooked on exercise, you bring in practices in mindfullness to calm stress and allow your minds to wander to unlock creativity. As your brain begins to change (something called neuroplasticity), the benefits build--you get fitter, improve your memory, increase your ability to work quickly and move from task to task easily. 

Along with Dr. Suzuki’s 4 minute Brain Hacks, Healthy Brain, Happy Life offers a simple program for changing your life, straight from a leading scientist’s personal experience.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Alexander Hamilton (Jean Fritz)


Now I want to see the play! After I finished reading this, I spent time listening to the songs on YouTube from the musical.

This was a good short version of Alexander Hamilton's life. It was a quick read. The subtitle, 'The Outside' was a good one. He was an outsider because his parents never married, because his step brother took what he loved, was poor but found a way to get a good education and was a great leader in the early years of the US government. The musical starts off with:

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished, in squalor grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

I loved reading about how he loved to learn and how aggressive he was about it. He would get up early and read and then go walking and work on memorizing the information he had read by reciting it. People thought he was a little crazy when they saw him walking and talking to himself.

I enjoyed reading about how banks started. Many people thought they were akin to gambling and would rather be seen in a brothel than a bank....perhaps still a legit concern. :)

In the end, he died in a duel, just a few years after his son died the same way. I thought it was bizarrely dumb way for such a smart guy to die.

When I read books like this, I wish someone had written some similarly great stories about people in Canadian history!

Goodreads says:

Acclaimed biographer Jean Fritz writes the remarkable story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America's most influential and fascinating founding fathers, and his untimely death in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Born in the British West Indies, Hamilton arrived in New York as an "outsider." He fought in the Revolution and became Washington's most valuable aidede- camp. He was there with Washington, Madison, and the others writing the Constitution. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury as the country struggled to become unified and independent.

Fritz's talent for bringing historical figures to life is at its best as she shares her fascination with this man of action who was honorable, ambitious, and fiercely loyal to his adopted country.

The Secrets of My Life (Caitlyn Jenner)


In my conservative social circles, this is an explosive topic. That is one reason I read this book. I felt like I had very little understanding of people who transition from one gender to another. I'm not a Kardashian fan. I've never watched the show actually and I can't keep the names of the Kardashian children straight, nor do I really care to. I was well aware of Bruce Jenner as an Olympian. I'm a fan of all things Olympics. When I first heard of it, his story really surprised me. I suppose that is one thing that compelled me to read this book.

A lot of people say this is a scourge of our day. They say that people are only doing these kinds of things because it's trendy right now. That wasn't the case for Bruce Jenner. This wasn't something he came up with just recently. It was a struggle his entire life. It is only now that it is really "safe" to even attempt to live as he felt most comfortable.

I am not part of the crowd that condemns people who choose to transition. I don't know why God makes people like this. I just hope that we can all be a little kinder. I"m glad to have a little more understanding of what life was like for Bruce and then late, Caitlyn Jenner. I appreciated the honesty found in the book.

Goodreads says:

The book will cover Caitlyn Jenner's childhood as Bruce Jenner and rise to fame as a gold-medal-winning Olympic decathlete; her marriages and her relationships with her children; her transition; and her experience as the world's most famous transgender woman.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story (Barbara Leaming)


I've said before, I am a fan of royalty. The Kennedy family has always fit in that category in my mind. I really knew nothing about Jacqueline Kennedy though until I read this. I'm sure there are many other books that would maintain the fairy tale imagine. This isn't one of those. I enjoyed reading about her upbringing, her debutante life and coming out, her relationships and desire to be with someone who wasn't boring and predictable (until she married someone who wasn't boring and predictable, that is).

I was surprised at this book - but also touched. Trauma changes you. It talks about the trauma Jackie Kennedy experienced and how it changed her. PTSD wasn't something talked about back then - but it's clear she had it. Some people wanted her to not respond how she did - but it changed it and there was no ignoring the trauma. That seemed to be the focus of this book. It would be interesting to read other books to get another perspective on her life.

I was also sad to hear what a unfaithful husband she had. So much of married life back then in those circles seemed to be about convenience. Their marriage certainly seemed to be one of those. However, there had to be some love. She wouldn't have been as traumatized if she hadn't loved him.

Goodreads says:

Barbara Leaming's extraordinary and deeply sensitive biography is the first book to document Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' brutal, lonely and valiant thirty-one year struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that followed JFK's assassination.

Here is the woman as she has never been seen before. In heartrending detail, we witness a struggle that unfolded at times before our own eyes, but which we failed to understand.

Leaming's biography also makes clear the pattern of Jackie's life as a whole. We see how a spirited young woman's rejection of a predictable life led her to John F. Kennedy and the White House, how she sought to reconcile the conflicts of her marriage and the role she was to play, and how the trauma of her husband's murder which left her soaked in his blood and brains led her to seek a very different kind of life from the one she'd previously sought.

A life story that has been scrutinized countless times, seen here for the first time as the serious and important story that it is. A story for our times at a moment when we as a nation need more than ever to understand the impact of trauma.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sleepover Sleuths (Carolyn Keene)


I wish I could go back and see myself when I was a Nancy Drew reader. Seems to me Nancy Drew books were quite sophisticated. This one was recommended by one of my students. I've been reading them some picture books that are mysteries and have told them I love mysteries so one student said I just had to read Nancy Drew. I love it when they give me books and say, "You have to read this!" She said some of them were too scary for her, but she did like this one.

When I started, a flood of memories came back as I realized the character names were the same. This one is modernized. The Nancy Drew I read was 16. This one is 8 years old. Now Nancy has a computer, uses instant messenger and has a cool doll from the City Dolls collection. Carolyn Keene's books were first published in 1930 though. Is this really by her?? Is she alive still? I did some googling (although, in my mind I was solving a mystery) and found out that Carolyn Keene isn't even a real person. There are a group of people who have written these books and the pseudonym they all use is Carolyn Keene.

Mystery solved. (I'm a little disappointed though)

Goodreads summary:

Eight-year-old Nancy Drew has her first case to crack! Can you help? Nancy and her two best friends, George and Bess, are so excited! They have been invited to Deirdre's sleepover party! There will be pizza, cake, and even a pajama fashion show. But the most exciting thing is that the party has a City Girls doll theme. All of the guests are bringing their dolls with them!

But then Deirdre's City Girls doll -- Hollywood Heather -- goes missing. Is her sleepover ruined? Or is there a detective in the room who can make sense of this mystery?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)


I love Avi! I got to meet him once and ever since then, I've been a huge fan of his books. I have always meant to read this and am glad I finally got around to it. My son read it in junior high and loved it. I can see why. I wish I could do it with my grade 3 book club. I think it may  be too scary for them though. Perhaps it would work for  Grade 4's Battle of the Books, though!

When I read it I wished that Charlotte Doyle was a real person. I wish this was a real story. I loved her strength and determination and willingness to do whatever it takes. The acts outside of normal gender roles. That, by itself, would make for a great discussion.

“A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. Ah, yes, but once you're abroad, as you have seen, winds have a mind of their own. Be careful, Charlotte, careful of the wind you choose.” 

Goodreads says:

An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences... Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Robert C O'Brien)


I must have read this book when I was younger. It was all vaguely familiar and comfortable. However, I couldn't remember enough of the story to justify not continuing to the end - and I'm glad I did. I loved it. We read it for our grade 3 book club and it was a hit! The books we've read so far this year were pretty easy. This one had much more substance. It made for a smaller crowd at book club, but a great discussion. Some were troubled to not know who the rats were that didn't make it out. Maybe that comes up in the next books? Not sure. I am definitely interested in reading more.

I love the theme of reading and learning. For the rats, reading brings them hope and freedom so they can escape their evil Nimh captors. It changes their life forever....even makes them unable to enjoy their social circles the same as they did in the past. Life changes because they learned to read. If they hadn't learned to read they would have been content to live in their cages forever and have someone look after them. Because they could read, they created a whole new social structure where they really got into a rat race (err, people race??) and dissatisfaction was created.  I also liked that rats are positive characters. That doesn't often happen with rats. They are very smart creatures so I was glad to see someone give them a little respect!

Goodreads says:

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mechanimals (Chris Tougas)


Goodreads says:

There once was a farmer who had lots of animals that got swept away by a tornado. The twister left behind a mountain of scrap metal and machine parts. And a very sad farmer. When a tornado leaves a farmer with a heap of scrap metal and no animals, his neighbors are sure it's all over for him. But the determined farmer refuses to admit defeat. His plans are big, and when his neighbors dismiss them with the words, When pigs fly, they grow bigger still. The farmer sets to work to turn that scrap metal into some rather surprising creatures. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Little Knight Who Battled Monsters (Gilles Tibo)

The Little Knight Who Battled Monsters

A Canadian author. Yea!!

This story was so cute. It is a great friendship story....similar to enemy pie. Maybe most of the witches and ogres and ghosts out there are just misunderstood.

We really had some good chuckles. The whole chocolate cake business was a good starter for conversations. Imagine how much more this little knight could do if he ate healthy? LOL The book will be a favorite in our library corner, for sure. Every page is full of hilarious labels and comments that will keep kids engrossed for long stretches, I'm sure.

This book isn't listed on Goodreads!!

Here is the story summary from my library:

Sometimes the bravest thing a knight can do is to lay down his arms.
In a curious kingdom built on top of a forest lives a little knight. He has no battles, because there are no enemies around. He spends long days reading and planting flowers, long nights dreaming and snoring peacefully.
One day the little knight wakes with a start to a loud knocking at his fortress door. Three of his loyal subjects have been kidnapped! With fresh chocolate cake in his belly, he sets off into the dark forest to find the monsters holding them captive. Can the little knight keep his vow and return them home safely?

Monday, December 4, 2017


November is a crazy month for me. I always think I will be able to finish report cards and continue with my life's regular activities. Once again, I was wrong. Report cards are finished now though and I'm ready to get back to things like blogging, making dinner and doing a little housework. Surprisingly, I did a fair bit of reading in November, but I wasn't so good at blogging about it and certainly not good at my note-keeping. Oh well. Moving on!

Here's what I'm reading this week:

I started this book a while ago, but got stopped. It is our grade 3 book club book this month. We did some pretty easy books so far this year. This one seems to have kids engaged in reading for longer periods of time. That is good. So far I love it. Looking forward to finishing it this week.


This is the book I'm reading for the book club I recently joined in my community. Another great Canadian author!

And of course, I'm still reading this great one by Brene Brown:


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie (Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson)


This book is fabulous. It should be required reading for every adult before the post anything on Facebook (my current pet peeve is the STUPID falsehoods people put on Facebook). This would be a great book to use to start off a unit teaching students who to discern information that is useful and information that is not useful, especially online. This book would be a great way to teach kids to question what they read and seek back up information. The vocabulary in the book is quite impressive and might be tricky for younger grades.

I can't wait for the next volume to come out!

Goodreads says:

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true—and asks readers to separate facts from fakes! Did you know that there is a fungus that can control the mind of an ant and make it do its bidding? Would you believe there is such a thing as a corpse flower—a ten-foot-tall plant with a blossom that smells like a zombie? How about a species of octopus that doesn’t live in water but rather lurks in trees in the Pacific Northwest?

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Promise (Nicola Davies)


This works well with our decodable: Chinlow of Singboat.  It's about making something beautiful and changing the world.

I had to pause on these pages:

Her bag was full, but when I tried to snatch it from her, she held on with the strength of heroes.

and then: ...and I understood the promise I had made. I held a forest in my arms, and my heart changed. 

The illustrator wrote about it on the Nerdy Book Club blog.

Goodreads says:

An allegorical tale of hope takes on new life in this stirring, gorgeously illustrated story.

On a mean street in a mean, broken city, a young girl tries to snatch an old woman’s bag. But the frail old woman, holding on with the strength of heroes, says the thief can’t have it without giving something in return: the promise. It is the beginning of a journey that will change the thieving girl’s life — and a chance to change the world, for good. Here is the story of a magical discovery that will touch the heart and imagination of every reader, young and old. In an exciting collaboration, author Nicola Davies joins forces with illustrator Laura Carlin to create a contemporary tale inspired by Jean Giono’s 1953 story, L’homme qui plantait des arbres.

King of the Sky (Nicola Davies)


This book won an award for the illustrations. The author wrote about it on the Nerdy Book Club blog.

The book has an eerie feel because the illustrations are smudgey....which works well with the coal town it is set in. I think this could be an interesting story about friendship across different ages. It's beautiful. It could be used around Remembrance Day because it says that pigeons carried messages during the war.

I'm still not quite sure how I'd use it in my classroom though.

Goodreads says:

In this tale of a young boy, an old man, and a dauntless pigeon, a lyrical text and extraordinary illustrations offer a gorgeous meditation on loneliness, belonging, and home. 
A young Italian boy has moved to the Welsh hills with his family. He feels isolated and unhappy, a stranger in a strange land. It is only when he makes an unlikely friend, an old man who lets him fly one of his pigeons in a race, that he learns how he can belong. Nicola Davies s beautiful story an immigrant s tale with powerful resonance in our troubled times is illustrated by an artist who makes the world anew with every picture."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Esio Trot (Roald Dahl)


I've read this book before, but I have a student who is going through a Roald Dahl phase, reading all of his books, so I became compelled to read it again after our discussion about it.

It's a strange book...a man tricks a woman into marrying him. Given Roald Dahl's themes on children who are smarter than adults, this one is a little off. I wonder why he wrote it. It makes me think he didn't have a lot of respect for women, assuming they're focused on silly things and pretty easy to trick into doing what you want them to do.

Here's a quote:

"I beg you to tell me, Mr. Hoppy. I'll be your slave for life!"

When he heard the words your slave for life a shiver of excitement swept through Mr Hoppy.

Oh dear. When I read it I had to go back. "Wait?? Did I really read that??"

It makes me wonder if I should be encouraging kids to reads Roald Dahl books. It's kinda messed up. Good relationships are not built on deceit and trickery.

Goodreads says:

Mr. Hoppy is in love with Mrs. Silver, but her heart belongs to Alfie, her pet tortoise. Mr. Hoppy is too shy to approach Mrs. Silver, until one day he comes up with a brilliant idea to win her heart. If Mr. Hoppy's plan works, Mrs. Silver will certainly fall in love with him. But it's going to take one hundred and forty tortoises, an ancient spell, and a little bit of magic.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me (Roald Dahl)


Peirce used to read this book again and again when he was young. It's a gooder, for sure. Definitely one of my more favorite Roald Dahl books.

Goodreads says:

A small boy with a desire to own a candy shop meets a window-washing team of a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey and together they go to work for the wealthy Duke of Hampshire, who makes all their dreams come true.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

I'm Not Invited? (Diana Cain Bluthenthal)


This book broke my heart!!  This one at least has a fun ending - but in real life, that isn't always the case. It's a hard thing for kids to go through. It's hard for adults too.

I wondered if the author made Minnie's hair like he did for a reason. It's super duper white and an unusual style. Her mother's hair is really white too so she apparently came by it naturally - but it is quite unusual. Only Minnie and her mother have super white hair.

Goodreads says:

Minnie's good friend Charles names his mealworm Minnie. So why doesn't he invite her to the party at his house this coming Saturday?
Hopeful at first, Minnie, by week's end, is a wreck. "No invitation, no party, no nothing," she moans, feeling as everyone feels at one time or another: unhappily left out.
Diana Cain Bluthenthal knows how to be a comfort -- to Minnie or anybody -- with a story and pictures that are funny as well as true to life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Experiential Storytelling (Mark Miller)


I think the author makes a lot of really good points in this book when it comes to being familiar with scriptures. I was especially interested in using the ideas in here for teaching LDS seminary. I want to be a good story teller! There is great power that comes from a story that can relate to scripture.

Goodreads says:

The 'Been there, done that' culture is starving for reality. Hardly satisfied with the modern conventions of citing facts and figures and pushing propositions, emerging churches are jumping into the narrative form of communication with both feet. But not all emerging church leaders have an inherent handle on the craft and skill of using narrative as a sermon form. Experiential Storytelling zeros in on the hows and whys of narrative, as well as the importance of sharing personal experience to double your storytelling ammunition. In addition, author Mark Miller goes several steps further, giving examples of real-time, hands-on experiences for church members as innovative extensions of traditional teaching and preaching that offer them greater scriptural understanding and ownership of the gospel story.Chapters include: * The Dawning of the Age of Experience* Once Upon a Story* Awakening the Sleeping Giant in the Church---C*R*E*A*T*I*V*T*Y* Reimagining the 'Sermon'* Elements of Experiential Storytelling* Killer Apps

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (Kate Clifford Larson)


I'll admit I'm a bit of a fan girl when it comes to royal families - and the Kennedy's are one of those famous families that fascinate me. This story made me sad though. Rosemary's parents inability to accept her was disturbing. They continually looked for ways to "fix" the problem rather than accept who she was. It's difficult to be imperfect when you're so worried about what everyone around you thinks. Although, I hope the family would argue that they weren't worried about what others were thinking and rather, more interested in helping her to be all she could be. The author's opinion definitely seemed to be that it was the former.

It was interesting to read the ideas they had about special needs education back then. Moving her from school to school was kind of sad. It made me want to make sure I'm more inclusive as a teacher. Joe Kennedy's take on Hitler and the war with Hitler and the Nazi's was also fascinating to follow. Clearly, he got it wrong. We sure have gone down some crazy roads when it comes to health and science.
 The story of her lobotomy was sad. The author called it the beginning of the Kennedy tragedies. I'd agree.  I had to wonder if keeping Rosemary hidden was the beginning of bad karma for the family. It was disturbing to hear about how her mother, Rose, didn't admit to knowing anything about the surgery and was complicit in keeping her hidden away for years after. The author says that perhaps she is the Kennedy that made the biggest difference. She is the reason the special Olympics were started, which was interesting considering of all the Kennedys, she was least interested in sports. It was something they made her do for her own good.

Goodreads says:

They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.

Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the Queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled — a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.  Major new sources — Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors' letters, and exclusive family interviews — bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then — as the family’s standing reached an apex — the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three, and the family's complicity in keeping the secret.  
Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Sleep Revolution (Arianna Huffington)


I made a commitment to myself this year that I would get enough sleep. Ever since I got a fitbit I'm obsessed with making sure I get enough sleep. After reading this book, I'm more committed. Sleep cures everything!

Goodreads says:

We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, writes Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post. And this has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.

What is needed, she boldly asserts, is nothing short of a sleep revolution. Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives. In her bestseller Thrive, Arianna wrote about our need to redefine success through well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. Her discussion of the importance of sleep as a gateway to this more fulfilling way of living struck such a powerful chord that she realized the mystery and transformative power of sleep called for a fuller investigation.

The result is a sweeping, scientifically rigorous, and deeply personal exploration of sleep from all angles, from the history of sleep, to the role of dreams in our lives, to the consequences of sleep deprivation, and the new golden age of sleep science that is revealing the vital role sleep plays in our every waking moment and every aspect of our health – from weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives -- and even our sex lives. She explores all the latest science on what exactly is going on while we sleep and dream. She takes on the dangerous sleeping pill industry, and all the ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. She also offers a range of recommendations and tips from leading scientists on how we can get better and more restorative sleep, and harness its incredible power.

In today's fast-paced, always-connected, perpetually-harried and sleep-deprived world, our need for a good night’s sleep is more important – and elusive -- than ever. The Sleep Revolution both sounds the alarm on our worldwide sleep crisis and provides a detailed road map to the great sleep awakening that can help transform our lives, our communities, and our world.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What I Know For Sure (Oprah Winfrey)


This book made me think I should write down what I know for sure.

I loved reading this. She is big on take responsibility for your life, make your own happiness and follow your heart.

Goodreads says:
As a creative force, student of the human heart and soul, and champion of living the life you want, Oprah Winfrey stands alone. Over the years, she has made history with a legendary talk show - the highest-rated program of its kind, launched her own television network, become the nation's only African-American billionaire, and been awarded both an honorary degree by Harvard University and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. From all her experiences, she has gleaned life lessons—which, for fourteen years, she's shared in O, The Oprah Magazine's widely popular "What I Know For Sure" column, a monthly source of inspiration and revelation.

Now, for the first time, these thoughtful gems have been revised, updated, and collected in What I Know For Sure, a beautiful cloth bound book with a ribbon marker, packed with insight and revelation from Oprah Winfrey. Organized by theme—joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity, and power—these essays offer a rare, powerful and intimate glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the world's most extraordinary women—while providing readers a guide to becoming their best selves. Candid, moving, exhilarating, uplifting, and frequently humorous, the words Oprah shares in What I Know For Sure shimmer with the sort of truth that readers will turn to again and again.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Why Libraries Matter - A Story Long Overdue (Ellen Fenman)


I think I loved this more than my class. Libraries do matter!

Goodreads says:

Becca can't wait to go to the library to start her summer reading, but her mom is working. Then her grandpa comes and wants a John Wayne DVD. Then her uncle comes and has lost his job and needs to find out employment info for the area, and the neighbor stops by, and another…and Becca is able to take them all to the library to find what each one needs.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

How To Make Friends With a Ghost (Rebecca Green)


Cute story! It was especially great to read it on Halloween day. It sparked a good debate about whether it is fiction or non-fiction. It all depends on whether or not you believe in ghosts! We decided as long as you can justify what genre you give it, you're right.

Goodreads says:

What do you do when you meet a ghost? One: Provide the ghost with some of its favorite snacks, like mud tarts and earwax truffles. Two: Tell your ghost bedtime stories (ghosts love to be read to). Three: Make sure no one mistakes your ghost for whipped cream or a marshmallow when you aren't looking! If you follow these few simple steps and the rest of the essential tips in How to Make Friends with a Ghost, you'll see how a ghost friend will lovingly grow up and grow old with you. 

A whimsical story about ghost care, Rebecca Green's debut picture book is a perfect combination of offbeat humor, quirky and sweet illustrations, and the timeless theme of friendship.

My Stroke of Insight (Dr Jill Bolte Taylor)


I loved the author's positivity about strokes. She is a brain scientist who had a stroke. Her experience about what it was like to have a stroke and to recover is inspiring. Neuroplasticity rocks!

I also love how she connects Eastern medicine and Western medicine in the final chapters.

Goodreads says:

Jill Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious scientist, she watched her mind deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of the brain, her respect for the cells in her body, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered. In My Stroke of Insight, she shares her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained into the unique functions of the two halves of her brain. When she lost the skills of her left brain, her consciousness shifted away from normal reality where she felt "at one with the universe." Taylor helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel and how we react to life's circumstances.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Eli (Bill Peet)


This is a really fun one to read. It's fun to make a screechy vulture voice and a cranky lion voice. We really had a good laugh while reading it. Connects well with our friendship unit. Good vocabulary discussions too. I feel like we should do an author study some time on Bill Peet. We've read a number of his books this year and today when I showed this one my students commented that this is probably going to be a good one since it's by Bill Peet.

Goodreads says:

A proud but decrepit lion learns a lesson about friendship from the vultures he despises.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Great Paper Caper (Oliver Jeffers)


This seems to be one of those books you could look at again and again and discover something new every time. There are so many little interesting details to look at and discuss in the illustrations. I wish we had a little more time for it in class because it seemed to cause a bit of a pause when I read it to my class.

Goodreads says:
The picture book features funny looking characters with dots for eyes and stick for legs who live in the forest conveys a sense that everyone is responsibility for the environment in which we live.

Monday, October 16, 2017


This week I'm finishing Ivy and Bean for grade 3 book club.

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I'm hosting for my book club this month and I haven't got much into this book (although I have read it before). I really need to get going on Daring Greatly:


I didn't plan things very well and I missed the date for my community book club last week and never did read One Perfect Lie. I still want to....but it's time to move on. So instead, I'm reading next months' book: The Heart Goes Last. It's a Margaret Atwood book and kind of bizarre...not that surprising.


I'm also doing some professional reading: Reading in the Wild and the BAS Assessment Guide (some people might think that's boring...but it's amazing!)
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Happier At Home (Gretchen Rubin)

I'm a big Gretchen Rubin fan. She speaks to me. She speaks openly about herself. She and I share many traits. When I was reading, I'd say, "Wow! That's so me!" This book is going on my list of books to re-read. I'd really love to start a "Happier at Home" group to help keep myself accountable. I also need to go back and read her "Happiness Project" book.

Goodreads says:

In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestsellerThe Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place. 
One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home.

And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.
So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love. 
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well. 
With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

IMWAYR (It's Monday, What Are You Reading?)

Well, actually, it's Tuesday, but yesterday was a holiday (Thanksgiving Day) so today is my Monday.

I need to get into my school book club book! It's going to be lots of fun. I've read it before, but I really need to refresh my memory. I'd kind of like to read the entire series, but I'm not sure I'll have time.


For personal reading, I'm reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. I love it!


Next, I plan to read One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline.


What are you reading?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Makes me chuckle every time. Foxes are awesome! The old farmers in this story are particularly nasty. Totally up to Roald Dahl's standards! :)

“I think I have this thing where everybody has to think I'm the greatest.And if they aren't completely knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated by me, I don't feel good about myself.”

“I therefore invite you all," Mr Fox went on, 'to stay here with me for ever.'
For ever!' they cried. 'My goodness! How marvellous!' And Rabbit said to Mrs Rabbit, 'My dear, just think! We're never going to be shot again in our lives!'
We will make,' said Mr Fox, 'a little underground village, with streets and houses on each side - seperate houses for Badgers and Moles and Rabbits and Weasels and Foxes. And every day I will go shopping for you all. And every day we will eat like kings.'
The cheering that followed this speech went on for many minutes.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Little Bee (Chris Cleave)


This was a compelling glimpse into the life and experiences of a refugee. The story is fiction, but many parts of it are real. The twist is the topic of suicide. One of the characters has committed suicide and is quite a key part of the story. It was interesting. Just like when I was recently reading a book about white supremacists and having a bizarre experience because of issues happening in real life with white supremacists, I also was touched by suicide as I was reading this story. It's a really weird experience when real life collides with what you're reading.

Goodreads says:

From the author of the international bestseller Incendiary comes a haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers---one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Book of Mistakes (Corinna Luyken)


Great book for talking about a growth mindset! My class was really curious about whether or not the author made the mistakes in the story on purpose. They asked me to tweet her to see if she made the mistakes on purpose.

Goodreads says:

Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which "mistakes" can blossom into inspiration
One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake.
The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush.
And the inky smudges... they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky. 

As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest "mistakes" can be the source of the brightest ideas--and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too.

Fans of Peter Reynolds's Ish and Patrick McDonnell's A Perfectly Messed-Up Story will love the funny, poignant, completely unique storytelling of The Book of Mistakes. And, like Oh, The Places You'll Go!, it makes the perfect graduation gift, encouraging readers to have a positive outlook as they learn to face life's obstacles.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chopsticks (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)


The other day when we read The Straight Line Wonder I was doing a little research to figure out if Marc Rosenthal is related to Amy Rosenthal. I still don't know the answer. Along the way though, I found a fun new book of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's!

There are a ton of hilarious little puns and jokes in here. My students have enjoyed reading it together and finding more and more laughs each time.

Goodreads says:

Meet Chopsticks! They've been best friends forever. But one day, this inseparable pair comes to a fork in the road. And for the very first time, they have to figure out how to function apart. From New York Times best-selling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and rising artistic talent Scott Magoon, this witty and inventive tale celebrates both independence and the unbreakable bonds of friendship. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Book of Mistakes (Corinna Luyken)


Great for a discussion on resiliency, making the best of situations, courage and creativity. No need to wad up that paper, throw it out and start again!

Goodreads says:

Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which "mistakes" can blossom into inspiration
One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake.
The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush.
And the inky smudges... they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky. 

As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest "mistakes" can be the source of the brightest ideas--and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too.

Fans of Peter Reynolds's Ish and Patrick McDonnell's A Perfectly Messed-Up Story will love the funny, poignant, completely unique storytelling of The Book of Mistakes. And, like Oh, The Places You'll Go!, it makes the perfect graduation gift, encouraging readers to have a positive outlook as they learn to face life's obstacles.

Stuck (Oliver Jeffers)


Recently, I listened to a podcast by Gretchen Reuben called Happier. She loves children's literature and encouraged everyone to take some time to read some of this genre. This book is a great example of why adults should read picture books.  When I read this it made me want to sit and think about all the different want the book could be used.  I think it could be a great analogy for many RS or SS lessons. It is a great analogy for habits and problem solving. It would also be fun to hear what kids think the lesson in this book is.

I often read other people's comments on Goodreads about curious books like this. I especially loved this: 

Strangely the day after reading I picked up the Guardian and there was an article by Jeffers about the debt he owes to Maurice Sendak (that's why the boy in his first picture books has a stripey jumper, an homage to his favourite monster in Where the Wild Things Are) and also how his books are not children's books, but simply picture books. Because as he says I don't believe they are just for children. I have met countless adults that collect picture books for themselves, and they are growing in confidence about openly admitting this in a book-signing queue. It's not for my daughter, or a friend's nephew. It's for me. Exactly. 

Goodreads says:

From the illustrator of the #1 smash The Day the Crayons Quitcomes another bestseller--a giggle-inducing tale of everything tossed, thrown, and hurled in order to free a kite!

When Floyd's kite gets stuck in a tree, he's determined to get it out. But how? Well, by knocking it down with his shoe, of course. But strangely enough, it too gets stuck. And the only logical course of action . . . is to throw his other shoe. Only now it's stuck! Surely there must be something he can use to get his kite unstuck. An orangutan? A boat? His front door? Yes, yes, and yes. And that's only the beginning. Stuck is Oliver Jeffers' most absurdly funny story since The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. Childlike in concept and vibrantly illustrated as only Oliver Jeffers could, here is a picture book worth rescuing from any tree.

The Heart and the Bottle (Oliver Jeffers)


Wow. This book came along just at the right time. I have a little girl in my life who is going through something terrible. I will have to keep this book handy. This would be a great book to read when you have a child who has something difficult to deal with. It might be a great way to start a conversation.  It could be read to children who have a friend who has suffered a loss to encourage them to know how to help their friend. Donalyn Miller says this is a deceptively simple book with a great message. She hit the nail on the head.

The little girl likes to read with her grandpa in a big red chair. One day the chair is empty. The story doesn't say he died, but you can infer that. She is sad and stops doing the things she used to love until someone comes along and helps her enjoy that again.

The author illustrates his own books. They're beautiful. I ran across his books by chance when we read one in class.

Goodreads summary:

Once there was a girl whose life was filled with all the wonder of the world around her. Then one day something occurred that caused the girl to take her heart and put it in a safe place.

However, after that it seemed that more things were empty than before. Would she know when and how to get her heart back?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Maddi's Fridge (Lois Brandt)


I have a few stories I have a hard time reading. They usually come later in the year. I hadn't read this one before and it made me cry. It's beautiful!

We had a good discussion about how sometimes it isn't a good idea to keep a secret, even if you promised because parents can often help solve problems.

Goodreads says:

Winner of:
2014 Christopher Award, Books for Young People
2014 ILA Primary Fiction Award
2015 MLA Mitten Award Honor
Human Rights in Children's Literature Honor

With humor and warmth, this children’s picture book raises awareness about poverty and hunger

Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school, and play in the same park, but while Sofia’s fridge at home is full of nutritious food, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Sofia learns that Maddi’s family doesn’t have enough money to fill their fridge and promises Maddi she’ll keep this discovery a secret. But because Sofia wants to help her friend, she’s faced with a difficult decision: to keep her promise or tell her parents about Maddi’s empty fridge. Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others. A call to action section, with six effective ways for children to help fight hunger and information on antihunger groups, is also included.

Monday, September 11, 2017


I'm really enjoying this. I was hoping to go to a new book club in my community but I'm not sure I'm going to get this read in time. Too bad. It seems like a great book so far and I would love to discuss it.

Books I plan to read with my class this week:

Monday: Aliens Love Underpants
Tuesday: The Library Gingerbread Man
Wednesday: The Cookie Fiasco
Thursday: Bill Peet....hmmm...which one??
Friday: More Bill Peet

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