Archive | October, 2017

This week’s book talks 10/9-13

13 Oct

It is Newbery week!

Monday: The 2007 Newbery Winner The Higher Power of Lucy by Susan Patron

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Tuesday: The 2009 Newbery Winner The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Wednesday: The 1997 Newbery Winner The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

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Next, I began talking about Newbery Honor books. I’d never before noticed the difference between the winner’s  medal and the honor book medal. It turns out, the winner gets the front of the medal, in gold. The honor book get a silver medal showing the back of the medal. Who knew!

Thursday’s book was Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.

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Finally, Friday’s book was The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate  by Jacqueline Kelly. I noticed some similarities between the covers of these last two books.

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Just a little creepy

12 Oct

I make no apologies to my students. I tell them straight up that I don’t like scary stories because they give me nightmares. I am not such a weenie that I eschew all books that are potentially scary books. I can read a book until it crosses a creepy line that is complicated to explain in words. It is a gut feeling and a sense of where a book is going.

I read and added Thornhill by Pam Smy to my classroom library. It is potentially scary, but I got through it well enough. The book is half text, half illustrations. To be honest, the scariest bits are told through the black and white illustrations, so I could look quickly and move on. I haven’t book talked it, and yet the book has been checked out several times. There is a audience for scary books.

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Publisher’s Summary:  Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

 

Then & Now

10 Oct

We are getting ready for Fall conferences and I can’t help thinking how different this is at my “new” school, where I am now in my 3rd year.

At my old school we sent home paper forms and collected them as they came.

At my new school, I send out an email with a link to my Sign-up Genius event.

At my old school, we had a special sibling meeting, so we could give parents back-to-back appointments.

At my new school, parents organize their own schedule, by clicking on the times they want.

At my old school, when a parent had to reschedule their appointment, it was on me to make the arrangements and coordinate with the sibling’s teacher, and maybe their ESL teacher.

At my new school, the parent takes care of this.

At my old school, in which 75% of the students received ELL services, we had to schedule conferences around interpreter times. Fortunately, I could do my own conferences in Spanish.

At my new school, in which 5% of the students received ESL services, I have no ELL students. I miss doing some conferences in Spanish.

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Timely & powerful

9 Oct

Thanks to everyone who helped me complete the second grant for books for my Mock Newbery Club. This second grant will help me get titles that were published recently. One of those is Alan Gratz’s Refugee.

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It intertwines the stories of three refugees children.

From the author’s website:

Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…

All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, surprising connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This one will give middle grade readers insight into the refugee crisis they see in the news today, and how that connects to refugee crises of the past. We talk a lot about how reading creates empathy. This novel will soften the hearts of anyone interested in reading about global issues.

Chapters alternate between the three stories, and Gratz is a master of knowing just where to stop to keep you reading.

This week’s booktalks 10/2-6

6 Oct

It was series week in my classroom. All my booktalks were about the first book in a series I thought my students might enjoy.

MONDAY I talked about Spy School by Stuart Gibbs. In addition to talking about that series, I also shared some of his other series.

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TUESDAY, I went a little more serious with Silverwing  by Kenneth Oppel.

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WEDNESDAY, I went for spooky with Jonathan Stroud’s first Lockwood & Co. book – The Screaming Staircase.

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THURSDAY,  I veered into the history of World War I and talked about Steampunk by talking about Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

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And, finally, on FRIDAY, I booktalked L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack,  the first book in a series I hold very dear.

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Retelling Beowulf

5 Oct

Yesterday, on bus duty, I spoke with a parent who surprised me by telling me she was a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and was writing a book base on Hindu mythology. There  are many books that incorporate various mythologies or retell epics in a modern setting. Not all of them manage to include the humor as effectively as Grendel’s Guide to Love and War.

 

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Publisher’s Summary: Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death . . . and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.

 

 

Bus drama

3 Oct

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I looked at the other teacher sitting with me on the bus, my eyes sending her a telepathic message,  Did she just say that?

It was our annual  bus evacuation drill and we were on the bus with a driver who had just told our 6th graders that if they didn’t listen and follow the rules they would die.

The driver certainly had our attention.

She had presence, a well-projected voice and a flair for the dramatic.

I learned about the double hull construction of a school bus . Who knew?

I learned that a bus will fill with smoke in two minutes.

And I learned that this driver would drag the “lifeless body” of a child who choked on a piece of gum off the bus and begin first aid as soon as she could.

As we exited the bus, reeling a little, one of my students simply said, “She talked a lot about dying.”

Definitely the most dramatic bus evacuation drill I have ever experienced.

 

Some graphic novels

2 Oct

There is always an audible gasp when I tell my class that my least favorite genre is graphic novels.

I explain that I am not a visual learner; I am a verbal learner. We are rare. I learn from the words I see and hear. It is not that I don’t need or enjoy pictures – I just prefer the words.

Once, during independent reading time, I watched they eyes of a student as he read a graphic novel. He spent much longer on the page than I would have and his eyes roamed back and forth all over the page, taking in the details I would probably miss. It was enlightening and helped me understand what makes graphic novels so appealing to kids.

Recently, I came across two graphic novels my kids might enjoy.

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Publisher’s Summary: Every night, tiny lights appear out of the darkness in Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning she brings them back to life in her whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Blending the reality of a strict Catholic school with a young girl’s boundless imagination, Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting mind of Lorena Alvarez.

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From the Series Website: Meet Rickety Stitch…a walking, talking, singing skeleton bard.

He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

Rickety’s only clue to his former identity, is a song he hears in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

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